Work in Sports
Columbus NHL team adds some faces
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNNSI.com) -- After waiting three years to start putting some faces with their uniforms, the Columbus Blue Jackets now have 26 faces.
They may not be All-Star faces ... but they're faces just the same.
"We've reached the pinnacle now with the team," said principal owner John H. McConnell after taking 26 players in the NHL expansion draft. "We've got flesh-and-blood guys. That's more than the numbers and talk that we had before."
The next job is retaining the players they really want. The list of draftees includes six unrestricted free agents who can sign elsewhere on July 1.
Columbus president and general manager Doug MacLean said he would work hard to get defensemen Lyle Odelein and Mathieu Schneider and forward Dallas Drake under contract in the next eight days.
"Hopefully we'll have a chance to sign them. If not, we'll get compensatory picks, although I don't want to go that route," MacLean said by telephone from the draft in Calgary, Alberta. "It would be a major coup if we got these guys signed."
MacLean called Odelein "one of the toughest, most solid, dependable defenseman and leaders in the league."
Odelein, 31, is a physical backliner who played 57 games with eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey before being dealt to Phoenix.
Schneider, who turned 31 last week, played 80 games last year for the New York Rangers. Like Odelein, his resume includes more than 700 NHL games.
Drake, yet another 31-year-old veteran forward, played 79 games for Phoenix, scoring 15 goals and totaling 45 points.
MacLean also had a busy day making trades. The Blue Jackets took forward Turner Stevenson from Montreal, then dealt him to New Jersey as compensation for the deal that brought enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa to Columbus last week.
The Blue Jackets also acquired a second-round pick in the 2001 entry draft from Montreal in exchange for selecting goalie Frederic Chabot.
In a trade with Buffalo, MacLean acquired defenseman Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre and right wing Matt Davidson, along with fifth-round draft picks this year and next for agreeing to take goalie Dwayne Roloson and left wing Geoff Sanderson.
The deal prevented Buffalo from losing defensemen Richard Smehlik and Jason Wooley to the Blue Jackets or the other expansion team, the Minnesota Wild.
Sanderson had 26 points in 67 games last year for Buffalo.
"I'm obviously very excited about going to Columbus," Sanderson said. "I've heard a lot of good things about the organization. It looks like we've got some good players."
Others selected by the Blue Jackets include Pittsburgh forward Tyler Wright, Ottawa forward Kevin Dineen and Toronto forward Kevyn Adams, who played his college hockey at Miami of Ohio.
"We've got some better skilled forwards than maybe we really anticipated getting," assistant general manager Jim Clark said.
MacLean said the Blue Jackets were able to get quality players and good value. The team will most likely have around $18 million invested in its roster for its NHL debut.
"We've left ourselves ample room to work through the summer," MacLean said. "That obviously was part of our philosophy going into today, to leave ourselves some room, some flexibility."