COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Columbus Blue Jackets have traded centre Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes for two draft picks and goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
The deal, announced on Wednesday by Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, would give Columbus a second-round pick in the 2012 draft and a fifth-round pick in 2013. The fifth-round pick will become a fourth rounder if the Coyotes make the playoffs this season and win their first-round series.
The Blue Jackets, with the worst record in the NHL, have been trolling for trade partners for the past few weeks. Rumours have been flying about the club dealing captain Rick Nash or high-priced centre Jeff Carter. Instead, for now, the Blue Jackets dealt Vermette, who has eight goals and 19 assists in 60 games this season.
McElhinney's acquisition could open the door to the team trading goalie Curtis Sanford, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and whom the club said Wednesday has been activated off injured reserve after a back injury. The Blue Jackets also have former Calder Trophy goalie Steve Mason, who has been erratic since being named the league's top rookie in 2009.
The second-round pick dealt by the Coyotes was originally acquired by Phoenix from the Ottawa Senators.
McElhinney has appeared in 69 career NHL games with Calgary, Anaheim, Ottawa and Phoenix, with a 19-26-4 record, a 3.09 goals-against average, a .899 save percentage and two shutouts. He was 1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in two games with Phoenix this season, and went 10-13-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in 25 games with Portland of the American Hockey League.
He is rehabilitating an injury and will remain on assignment with Portland.
Vermette has 141 goals and 178 assists with 317 penalty minutes in 600 career NHL games with Ottawa and Columbus.
He was acquired by the Blue Jackets from the Senators on March 4, 2009, and appeared in 241 straight games with the club, totalling 61 goals and 91 assists with 112 penalty minutes.