Rostislav Klesla, the team's first ever draft pick, was dealt along with AHL veteran Dane Byers to the Phoenix Coyotes for winger Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto.
Rusty is currently out with an injury, but is close to returning. Upshall offers speed and grit, and Lepisto is a puck moving blueliner. This deal may take the Jackets out of the running for Liles, or another such defenseman.
There is some familiarity between Upshall and R.J. Umberger, they played together in Philadelphia. It remains to be seen where Upshall will fit in the lineup, but the consensus among most Jacket fans is that they hope he doesn't take the spot of Matt Calvert on the second line. Calvert has been playing out of his mind recently, and that chemistry shouldn't be messed with. If Calvert cools off, sure, but as long as he is putting up points like crazy, Upshall would be a good fit on the third line.
Upshall's SBNation Scouting Report:
Assets: Is a fiery competitor and backs down from no one. Has solid skating ability and loves to work the corners. Can play either wing position effectively and is fairly responsible defensively.
Flaws: Needs to avoid injuries, since his rambunctious style can lead to issues in that department. His trash-talking ways can also get him into trouble, as well as his team. Is inconsistent in the scoring department.
Career Potential: Agitating two-way winger.
Lepisto's SBNation Scouting Report:
Assets: Moves the puck with aplomb. Has sound defensive instincts and a history of putting up numbers at lower levels. Can log a lot of ice time.
Flaws: Can lose battles in front of the net and in the corners, mainly due to a lack of strength. Is somewhat inconsistent, especially in the offensive zone.
Career Potential: Puck-moving defenseman.
Great deal for the Jackets here. Rusty is a solid defenseman but not spectacular. The Jackets are receiving quite a bit of production and two good roster players in return and that's a bit of a surprise. Klesla should fill in well for the Coyotes, but I don't see him taking them to the next level by any means.
I like the financial flexibility offered by this deal. Rusty still has three more years at just under 3 million a year left on his contract, whereas Upshall is a UFA this summer, and Lepisto an RFA. To me Upshall seems like he was included to offset the contract, as Lepisto was the target.
Rusty isn't the sort of blueliner that coach Arniel prefers to run with, a mobile guy like Lepisto is a much better fit. The long term cap savings may allow the Jackets to be remain in the mix for another player today. Another thought is that with Anton Stralman going down with an injury last night, Lepisto may be his replacement and the team is still looking to add a blueliner.
Best of luck Rusty.
A move nobody suspected or anticipated - that's Scott Howson to the note. Upshall immediately adds scoring and grit to our top six, plus he has history with R.J. Umberger, who he played with in Philly. Lepisto may not be a Power Play QB, but he's a guy with as many goals from the blue line as Kris Russell, and since he's an RFA, a good performance might see him replacing Anton Stralman next year.
The idea of an Upshall - Umberger - Calvert second line is really attractive where I sit, but I'm not going to shuffle the line combos too much yet. This move helps the Jackets quite a bit, but it also frees up a bit more salary. I have to think it could be the setup for another move today.
Even if nothing else develops, though, it feels like a move that will help this team in the playoff push, and I can't ask for anything more.
Like Matt said, I never saw this deal coming. In fact, I was thoroughly convinced that Howson would stand pat today. I thought this trade was a fantastic move for the Jackets. Whether Upshall and/or Lepisto stay beyond the end of this season is only one factor of this deal. I'm a fan of the reuniting of former teammates Upshall and Umberger. Lepisto may benefit from the change of scenery. In other words, two guys into town with a fresh start, playing for contracts...I like it!
On a bit of a down note, losing Klesla may be like losing one of the family...a guy who has been with the Jackets pretty much from the beginning. I can only say that as a newcomer to Blue Jackets hockey, I thought he was adequate at his position, and had a pretty large contract to boot. The guy I'll miss is Dane Byers. Prior to this season, I was able to watch him as the captain of the Hartford Wolfpack and then as a rugged forward for the Falcons. I mentioned on Saturday that it was possible that he could turn out to be a deal enhancer, and sure enough there he went. Losing Byers and Sestito as they embark on their bid for a playoff run seems to increase the difficulty of succeeding. The Falcons though are a resilient bunch this season, and I anticipate that they will still make a good drive toward the Calder Cup playoffs! All in all, a good trade!
Here's exclusive Cannon video of Scott Howson discussing today's trade.
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