Blue Jackets rookie GM pulls off biggest move at NHL trade deadline

Columbus Blue Jackets rookie general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made an unexpected splash Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline.

The Finnish-born Kekalainen—the NHL’s first European general manager—acquired sniper Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers prior to the 3 p.m. ET deadline. It was a bold move for a GM whose club is 11th in the Western Conference but just one point behind eighth-place St. Louis.

“Throughout this process our focus was to add a player who could provide a boost to our offence, improve our goal scoring and power play and we identified Marian Gaborik as the player we wanted,” Kekalainen said. “He has been an elite goal scorer in this league for many years and we are very excited to have him.”

Columbus also received defencemen Blake Parlett and Steve Delisle from the Rangers for forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, defenceman John Moore and a 2014 sixth-round pick.

Gaborik, 31, has nine goals and 10 assists in 19 games but registered 41 goals and 35 assists in 2011-12 and has reached the 40-goal plateau three times. But the Slovak also had a tumultuous tenure in New York, benched often by Rangers coach John Tortorella for defensive miscues.

The veteran left-winger has 333 goals and 333 assists in 757 career games with Minnesota and New York. The three-time all-star is also an expensive addition, in the fourth year of a five-year, US$37.5-million contract.

In all, there were 17 deals involving 30 players.

Kekalainen also acquired forward Blake Comeau from Calgary for a 2013 fifth-round pick and goalie Patrick Killeen from Pittsburgh for future considerations. He also sent goalie Steve Mason to Philadelphia for goalie Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round pick.

Comeau, 27, had four goals and three assists in 33 games this season.

Mason was 3-6-1 in 13 games with Columbus, posting a 2.95 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. Mason, the NHL’s top rookie in 2009, has appeared in 232 career games with a 2.90 GAA and .903 save percentage.

Leighton, 31, has a 35-41-19 record, 2.97 GAA, .901 save percentage and four shutouts in 105 career games with Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia and Carolina.

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray bolstered his club’s offence by acquiring rookie forward Cory Conacher and a 2013 fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay for six-foot-seven goaltender Ben Bishop. The 23-year-old Conacher—a distant relative of Hockey Hall of Famers Charlie Conacher, Roy Conacher, and Lionel Conacher—has nine goals and 15 points in 35 games this season.

The native of Burlington, Ont., is second among NHL rookies in scoring and becomes Ottawa’s leading scorer, two points ahead of centre Kyle Turris and defenceman Sergei Gonchar.

Bishop posted an 8-5 record, 2.45 GAA and .922 save percentage in 13 games with Ottawa. The Senators acquired him prior to the 2012 trade deadline from St. Louis after starter Craig Anderson severed a tendon in his right pinkie while cutting frozen chicken at his home.

Anderson suffered an ankle injury early in February, forcing both Bishop and Robin Lehner to play. But with Anderson set to return, Bishop became expendable.

Bishop is scheduled to become a restricted free agent at season’s end. He was selected in the third round, 85th overall, in the 2005 entry draft by St. Louis.

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Buffalo dealt captain Jason Pominville and a 2014 fourth-round pick to Minnesota for forward Johan Larsson, goalie Matt Hackett, a 2013 first-round selection and 2014 second-round pick. Pominville had 10 goals and 25 points in 37 games this season and had spent his entire career in western New York after being drafted by the Sabres in 2001.

Pittsburgh continued stocking up for its playoff run, landing forward Jussi Jokinen from Carolina for a conditional 2013 pick. The Hurricanes will also retain a portion of Jokinen’s salary.

Jokinen had six goals and five assists in 33 games and had recently cleared waivers. The 30-year-old has 121 goals and 225 assists in 569 career games over eight seasons with Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Pittsburgh’s other moves prior to the deadline included acquiring forwards Brenden Morrow from Dallas and Jarome Iginla from Calgary as well as defenceman Doug Murray from San Jose.

In other transactions:

—Toronto acquired defenceman Ryan O’Byrne from Colorado for a 2014 fourth-round pick.

—San Jose re-acquired defenceman Scott Hannan, 34, from Nashville for a conditional 2013 seventh-round pick. The Sharks also got forward Raffi Torres from Phoenix for a 2013 third-round pick.

—Boston landed forward Rob Flick from Chicago for forward Maxime Sauve, then acquired veteran defenceman Wade Redden from St. Louis for a conditional 2014 seventh-round pick. Both Boston and St. Louis were busy prior to the deadline. On Tuesday, the Bruins acquired veteran forward Jaromir Jagr from Dallas for a conditional 2013 second-round pick and two prospects. On Monday, the Blues landed defenceman Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary for a conditional 2013 first-round selection, minor-league defenceman Mark Cundari and goalie Reto Berra.

—Edmonton obtained forward Jerred Smithson from Florida for a 2013 fourth-round pick.

—New Jersey acquired veteran forward Steve Sullivan from Phoenix for a 2014 seventh-round pick. The Coyotes also obtained forward Brandon McMillan from Anaheim for forward Matthew Lombardi.

—Washington obtained forwards Martin Erat and Michael Latta from Nashville for forward Filip Forsberg.

—Anaheim sent goalie Jeff Deslauriers to Minnesota for future considerations.

Veteran goaltenders Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames had both been mentioned in trade talk, but neither was dealt.

Luongo has been the subject of much trade speculation for months after losing his starting position to Cory Schneider.

Toronto was reportedly one team interested in Luongo but apparently was never willing to meet Vancouver’s asking price. However, the 33-year-old Luongo blamed his massive contract—nine years remaining at an annual cap hit of $5.3 million—as the reason why he wasn’t traded.

“My contract sucks,” he said candidly. “Unfortunately, it’s a big factor in trading me, and it’s probably why I’m still here.

“I’d scrap it if I could, right now.”

Toronto was also mentioned as a landing spot for Kiprusoff as neither Leafs starter James Reimer nor backup Ben Scrivens have NHL playoff experience. Flames GM Jay Feaster confirmed Wednesday the Leafs requested permission to speak to Kiprusoff but the 36-year-old Finnish goalie decided against the move as his wife recently gave birth to a baby boy prematurely.

Kiprusoff has struggled this season with a 6-10-2 record, 3.64 GAA and .868 save percentage.