COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Blue Jackets are gradually getting a makeover.
The Jackets dealt one of their top defenceman, Marc Methot, to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday for restricted free agent winger Nick Foligno. The move underscores general manager Scott Howson’s belief that he has fortified the defence through the acquisition of blue-liner Jack Johnson and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and now must add some scoring.
On the first day for free agent signings, the club also locked up three players. Defenceman Adrian Aucoin came aboard for a one-year deal worth $2 million plus bonuses. He gives the club an experienced blue-liner to pair with one of several young defencemen on the roster.
Columbus also signed another goaltender with NHL experience in Curtis McElhinney, who will add depth in net with either the Blue Jackets or elsewhere in the organization. Columbus traded for McElhinney a year ago, but he did not play due to an injury.
The biggest change is still being negotiated.
The club has reportedly been weighing offers for captain Rick Nash, but Howson has declined to discuss anything related to the situation. Nash revealed midway through last season that he had asked the Blue Jackets to be traded.
Foligno, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., has 61 goals and 87 assists with 299 penalty minutes in 351 career games, all with the Senators.
“Nick is a versatile, durable two-way player who at age 24 is coming off the best season of his career,” Howson said. “We’re excited about what he will add to our group of forwards.”
Foligno was the Senators’ top draft pick in 2006. He had a career-high 17 goals in 2008-09 and has at least 14 goals and 32 points in his four full NHL seasons. He has also played in 177 consecutive games.
Methot was Columbus’ seventh pick in 2003. A stay-at-home defenceman, he has totalled seven goals, 44 assists and 208 penalty minutes in 275 career games, all with Columbus. Last year, he had a goal and six assists with 24 penalty minutes in 46 games before missing the final 28 games due to injury.
Aucoin, who turns 39 on July 3, has 121 goals and 274 assists in 1,072 games with Vancouver, Tampa Bay, the New York Islanders, Chicago, Calgary and Phoenix during a career that spans 17 seasons. In 2011-12, he had two goals and seven assists in 64 games with the Coyotes.
“Adrian was the first defenceman we contacted today,” Howson said. “He is an experienced player who can move the puck and he reads the game very well. He will provide leadership and will be a great mentor to our young defencemen.”
The Blue Jackets signed McElhinney to a one-year, two-way NHL-American Hockey League contract.
The deal will pay the veteran $750,000 if he plays at the NHL and $105,000 if he is in the minors, the Blue Jackets announced. He was originally acquired from Phoenix, along with two draft picks (second round in 2012 and fifth round in 2013), in exchange for Antoine Vermette on Feb. 22, but he didn’t appear in any games after that because of injury.
The 29-year-old, who has played in 69 career games with the Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Senators and Phoenix Coyotes, offers a third option in goal.
The Blue Jackets have struggled with goaltending since making their lone playoff appearance in 2009. Steve Mason, the Calder Trophy winner that year who has floundered since, is still under contract. The club recently traded with Philadelphia to obtain Bobrovsky. Also under contract is Allen York, a former sixth-round pick who is just 23 and played well in spot duty last season.
At the very least, the addition of McElhinney and Bobrovsky, along with Mason and York, will help fill a void of goalies throughout the organization.
The Blue Jackets also signed left wing Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to a standard three-year entry level contract. Audy-Marchessault played last year with Connecticut of the AHL and had 24 goals and 40 assists in 76 games.
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