Busy Blue Jackets add Gaborik to nudge playoff run
Marian Gaborik landed in Columbus, providing the trade-happy Blue Jackets' playoff push a nudge.
The purge in Buffalo continued, with the Sabres dealing captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota on Wednesday. The talent-laden Pittsburgh Penguins showed they weren't done dealing by acquiring forward Jussi Jokinen from Carolina.
And even NHL rookie of the year candidate Cory Conacher wasn't an untouchable after Tampa Bay traded him to Ottawa in exchange for goalie Ben Bishop.
What began as a slow day in leading up to the NHL's mid-afternoon trading deadline, ended with a flourish as teams continued to jockey for playoff positioning with a little over three weeks to go in a lockout-shortened season.
When the dust settled, 23 teams completed 17 deals involving 30 players.
The Blue Jackets led the way with four trades in a bid to continue a late-season push to secure only their second playoff berth.
Their most notable deal involved the New York Rangers, in which Columbus acquired Gaborik and defensemen Blake Parlett and Steven Delisle. In return, the Rangers received forwards Derek Dorsett and Derick Brassard, defenseman John Moore and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Gaborik, who waived his no-trade clause, was the key for the Blue Jackets, who opened the day 11th in a tightly packed race for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
"Throughout this process our focus was to add a player who could provide a boost to our offense, improve our goal scoring and power play, and we identified Marian Gaborik as the player we wanted,'' general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He has been an elite goal scorer in this league for many years and we are very excited to have him.''
Columbus also swapped goalies with Philadelphia, sending Steve Mason to the Flyers in exchange for Michael Leighton and a third-round pick in the 2015 draft. The Blue Jackets added another goalie, by acquiring Patrick Killeen from Pittsburgh for future considerations.
And Columbus also added forward Blake Comeau from Calgary in exchange for a fifth-round pick this year.
While the Blue Jackets continued their push for the playoffs, the Sabres showed more signs of conceding their chances by looking instead beyond this season. Buffalo, which has already fired its longtime coach Lindy Ruff, sits 12th in the East.
"Well, it's no fun being where we are,'' general manger Darcy Regier said. "Maybe we could've stayed in the race. Maybe we could've acquired a player. Maybe we could've made a run at it like we did last year and either got in or just out. But the reality is that the preference was to build for a Stanley Cup versus a playoff run.''
In trading Pominville, their third core player in five days, the Sabres acquired two rookies - forward Johan Larsson and goalie Matt Hackett - a first-round pick in this year's draft and a second-rounder next year.
Add it up, and Buffalo has stockpiled six picks - including three second-rounders in the next three years - over the past three weeks.
Pominville provides an immediate boost to the Wild, who opened the day tied with Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead. He's a six-time 20-goal scorer, who is versatile enough to play in both power-play and penalty-killing situations.
"It just gives you a sense that they believe in the way we've been playing and they believe in our team,'' forward Zach Parise said before the Wild played at San Jose. "Now it's up to us to elevate our game even more.''
The injury-depleted Senators got help by adding Conacher. His 24 points (nine goals) put him second in the NHL rookie scoring race and immediately makes him Ottawa's leading scorer.
The Lightning land goaltending help in Bishop, who was expendable in Ottawa. Starter Craig Anderson is set to return after missing more than a month with an ankle injury, while Robin Lehner has been solid filling in.
The Penguins showed they're not done tinkering, by acquiring Jokinen for a conditional pick from Carolina.
He's the fourth player the Penguins have added after landing forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow as well as defenseman Doug Murray last week. And the deal comes with captain Sidney Crosby's status uncertain after he was struck by a puck against the New York Islanders last weekend.
Coach Dan Bylsma plans to use Jokinen to center wingers Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz.
"This is a particular case that without Sidney Crosby, for whatever period of time that is, you have a very good guy who has put up lots of points to fill in and to be a real good centerman for you on that line,'' Bylsma said before the Penguins played the New York Rangers.
In other notable trades: Boston acquired veteran defenseman Wade Redden from St. Louis, which was already deep on the blue line after acquiring Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold in separate trades.
Nashville traded forwards Martin Erat and Michael Latta for promising Washington Capitals forward Filip Forsberg. The Predators also acquired a conditional draft pick from San Jose by trading veteran defenseman Scott Hannan, who returns to his former team.
The Maple Leafs strengthened their blue line by adding Colorado's Ryan O'Byrne for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Minneapolis, Josh Dubow from San Jose, Calif., Ira Podell in New York and Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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