Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has many ideas running through his mind about how to improve his team. Trading the second-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is one of them and Howson says the pick has already garnered some interest from around the league.
“We’ve certainly listened to people. We’ve had a couple of expressions of interest on the pick in terms of moving down,” Howson told The Morning Show on Sportsnet 960 The Fan on Thursday. “We wouldn’t want to move too far down so we’ll just see how it plays out next week. Traditionally, and if history repeats itself, teams get a little more serious about exchanging picks as we get closer to the draft on the draft floor.”
Howson, who has been the Blue Jackets GM since 2007, said he is looking at any and all avenues to improve his squad and is open to dealing his top pick if the right offer is made. But he also admitted that trading away a high draft pick can be quite difficult.
“We’d be open to any suggestions,” Howson said. “It’s not an easy trade to trade out of the two slot, or one slot or three slot for that matter.”
The Blue Jackets are no strangers to making deals close to draft day either. One day before last season’s draft, Howson traded Jakub Voracek to the Philadelphia Flyers along with the eighth-overall pick (which the Flyers used to select Sean Couturier) in exchange for forward Jeff Carter.
In February, Howson then flipped Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for defenceman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick. Although disappointed Carter didn’t help his club like he anticipated, Howson has no regrets about the signing and was pleased he was able to get a good return when they traded him.
Regardless of what the Blue Jackets do with the No. 2 pick, Howson realizes he is going to be adding talent to the franchise either way, which serves as a silver lining to a disappointing season.
“It was a difficult season for our hockey team and our franchise and our city and we’ve put it in the rear-view mirror and we’re moving ahead.
“Certainly if we were a better club last year we’d be more open to trading a high pick, but when you have the second pick it’s pretty important to use that selection where you really get something of high quality back before you move away from (making a selection).”
Despite finishing the season with the worst record in the National Hockey League, the Blue Jackets will not pick first in the draft because the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery.
“When we put our final list together, which we’ll do next week, we’ll know we’re getting one of our first two players … It was a little frustrating when we did lose the lottery to Edmonton but in the grand scheme of things we know we’re going to get a really good player and we have to make sure we do our job and select the right player.”
Rick Nash update
Another major question facing the Blue Jackets is what to do with franchise player, Rick Nash?
Late last season, it was revealed that Nash wanted out of Columbus. Trade talks were rampant but the NHL Trade Deadline came and went and Nash remained on the team. Now that the season is over, discussions are once again being held about the 27-year-old’s future.
“We’ve had discussions. I’ve talked to his agent, but those discussions will remain private and confidential,” Howson said. “What I will say is we’re looking to improve our team in any way possible and no player would be untouchable.”
When asked if a potential trade could get done before the draft, Howson replied: “Anything’s possible,” but added trade talks involving Nash haven’t gotten too heavy since the trade deadline.
“If we can’t improve the team, we’ll move on with what we have.”
Right now, Howson feels the defence is the strongest part of his team right now and he plans to build around a strong blueline, which means he is in the market to add forwards through trades, draft and free agency.
“I’m talking to a lot of teams, both receiving calls and making calls on everyone on our team and seeing what the moods (of fellow GMs) are. It’s not confined to one player and I’m aggressively out there talking to general managers,” added Howson, who also said that he is aggressively looking to acquire depth in net.
The 2012 NHL Draft runs June 22-23.