Analysis: Huselius signing, Zherdev trade has future looking brighter in Columbus

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

With two big moves yesterday, the Blue Jackets got rid of a big millstone and bolstered a thin backend while actually increasing their offense as well.

Columbus traded maddeningly inconsistent yet talented right winger Nikolai Zherdev and center Dan Fritsche to the Rangers in exchange for defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman. The Jackets also signed free agent left winger Kristian Huselius, who last suited up for the Flames.

In moving Zherdev, the Jackets rid themselves of a player whose numbers ping-ponged from good to bad every season and was a consistent threat to go home and play for a bigger Russian contract.

The right winger compiled a career-high 61 points this season, but his trend of scoring has been dizzying: He had just 32 points the year prior after notching 54 as a sophomore and 34 as a rookie.

With Gilbert Brule having been traded a couple of days ago, GM Scott Howson has now moved two of ex-GM Doug MacLean’s first round picks, both of whom have had troubling and disappointing careers to date.

In return for Zherdev and Fritsche, a solid third-liner, the Jackets beefed up their blueline with Tyutin and Backman. Tyutin can play major minutes and will likely be on the top pairing in Columbus. Backman was a disaster in his short time on Broadway after being acquired from St. Louis at the trade deadline, but has played well in the past, so Columbus offers him a fresh start.

The Jackets defense corps is now huge. Six of their top blueliners average 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds while the seventh, Kris Russell (5-foot-10, 177 pounds), is the puck-mover and power play specialist. Other than Russell, the ‘D’ isn’t going to win a lot of footraces, but they can sure put the hurt on opponents.

In Huselius, the Jackets get a player who comes with fewer headaches (assuming Mike Keenan isn’t around) and whose offensive numbers surpass Zherdev’s. Columbus is still without a first-line center right now, but with talent such as Huselius, Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger and Fredrik Modin on the wings and youngsters Jakub Voracek, Derrick Brassard and Nikita Filatov on the horizon, things are looking up in Ohio.

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