Has Rick Nash left the ice as a Blue Jacket for the last time? (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Following yet another disappointing season, it was widely anticipated the Columbus Blue Jackets would conduct a total roster rebuild this summer, starting with the trade of team captain Rick Nash, whom they unsuccessfully shopped – at his request – leading up to the February trade deadline.
Nash is still expected to be dealt, but according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, management intends to reshape, rather than rebuild, the Jackets into a playoff contender for next season.
Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson, who doesn't appear in danger of being replaced this summer, has two first round picks in this year's draft. One, of course, is the second overall, while the other is the L.A. Kings’ first round pick, which the Jackets received with defenseman Jack Johnson in the Jeff Carter trade.
Though Howson has the option of passing up the Kings’ pick this year for their 2013 first-rounder, it's believed he'll use it as part of a trade.
Portzline explains Howson can entertain offers for the L.A. pick on the first day of the draft, because under the terms of the trade, he doesn't have to tell the Kings of his intent to retain or defer that selection until two picks before it comes up.
The Blue Jackets’ biggest need this summer is to land a quality starting goaltender and it's believed Howson will target Vancouver's Cory Schneider.
Portzline also listed L.A.’s Jonathan Bernier, Nashville's Anders Lindback and Boston's Tuukka Rask as possibilities, though he doubts the Predators would deal with a division rival, while the Bruins aren't expected to part with Rask, who's considered the heir apparent to 38-year-old Tim Thomas.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal believes the Jackets would use Nash and the two first round picks to land a starting goaltender, but one has to think Howson would want a return of more than just a goalie.
Portzline noted trading Nash would exacerbate Columbus’ already anaemic offense, thus Howson would likely want one or two scoring forwards (assuming he can't land a goalie) as part of the return.
Hovering over Howson's efforts to improve his roster are the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations between the league and NHL Players’ Association.
Rival GMs are leery of making major deals until a new CBA is implemented, which would make it difficult for Howson to net a quality return for Nash, let alone swing other deals to bolster his roster.
Speaking of Lindback, ESPN.com's Craig Custance believes this will be his last season in Nashville.
Though Schneider and Bernier tend to get most of the press when it comes to goalie trade rumors, Custance believes Lindback shouldn't be excluded from that list, believing he's ready to move into a starter's role, which he won't get a chance to do as Pekka Rinne's understudy.
The Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning could be suitors, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs, depending upon whether they want to try their luck with another young netminder or seek one with more experience.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.
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