With the NHL Trade deadline five days away, the Jackets started their housecleaning early, sending center/winger Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes for a second round pick, a fifth round pick and goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
McElhinney has spent most of this season with Portland of the AHL, and will likely be sent to Springfield now that he is in the Columbus organization. McElhinney will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. I can't help but think that another move involving a Columbus goaltender is close-perhaps Curtis Sanford will be dealt to a contender looking for a dependable backup.
EDIT: It appears that McElhinney is injured, and out for the season. He was included in the deal because Phoenix was at the 50 contract limit. McElhinney is just a paper move.
The second round pick was originally Ottawa's, and the fifth round pick is conditional- if the Coyotes win a playoff round this year, the pick becomes a fourth rounder. The second is for this year's draft, while the conditional pick is in 2013.
The second round pick is good value for a team like Columbus, who are about to embark on a rebuild. The fifth round pick is a sweetener, but it could turn out to be a good player- Matt Calvert and Tomas Kubalik, two wingers who are high on the team prospect charts- were both fifth round picks.
Vermette hasn't been the same since the playoff year. He remains one of the best faceoff men in the league, however, and is defensively responsible. This move indicates that the Coyotes are making a run at the playoffs, and Vermette will give them valuable depth up the middle, a dose of scoring, and faceoff expertise.
Vermette's off-ice contributions to the community will be sorely missed, but this move allows some financial flexibility, as his $3.75 million cap hit (through 2014-2015) is now off the books. In Phoenix he'll be joining former Jackets Ray Whitney, Raffi Torres, Gilbert Brule and Rostislav Klesla so there will be some familiarity there.
As far as value goes, this is about as good as it was going to get from a Columbus perspective. For the Jackets to get the most out of this deal, they sorely need to improve their success with second round draft choices.