NHL

Jackets deal Torres, Modin, Jurcina

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)

The already young Columbus Blue Jackets got a lot younger on Wednesday afternoon.

The club traded veteran forwards Raffi Torres and Fredrik Modin and defenseman Milan Jurcina - all potential unrestricted free agents - for three draft picks and a depth blue-liner.

``It's just about expiring contracts and not having rights to the players,'' Columbus general manager Scott Howson said. ``When you're in that situation, you have to make a decision. Are you going to hang onto them?''

Torres, his wife and 3-month-old daughter will be moving to Buffalo, not far from his parents' home in suburban Toronto.

``They're a pretty good team, a team with a lot of skill,'' he said of the Sabres. ``I'll do what I do best - try to be physical and try to score some goals along the way.''

Howson, his back up against Wednesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline, also sent defenseman Mathieu Roy to Florida for University of Michigan center Matt Rust. Then he also dealt former first-round draft pick Alexandre Picard, taken eighth overall in the 2004 draft, to Phoenix for another ex-Michigan player, winger Chad Kolarik.

The flurry of deals save the Blue Jackets money, add prospects and give them more ways to re-energize after a season in which nothing has seemed to work out right. The club stands 25-28-11 and is 14th of the 15 teams in the Western Conference with 61 points.

Torres, Modin (who waived a no-trade clause) and Jurcina could have signed elsewhere this summer without the Blue Jackets getting anything in return. So the club got some value out of them in the form of players or picks, in addition to not having to pay their sizable salaries for even the last 18 games of the season.

Howson said the market was tight and playoff teams were wary.

``Teams are careful with their assets,'' he said. ``The buyers are always trying to wait it out and maybe the price will come down, and the people who are selling are holding onto their price, hoping they're going to get it. It really does become a game of chess or chicken at the end. At some point you've got to jump if you're going to get anything done.''

First, Howson traded Torres, one of the Blue Jackets' most productive players, to the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Nathan Paetsch and a second-round draft pick.

Torres, 28, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, scored 19 goals and added 12 assists for the Blue Jackets in 60 games this season.

He said when the Blue Jackets fell out of the playoff picture, it improved the chances he might be traded.

``It's tough to win in this league on a consistent basis,'' he said. ``It's tough to pinpoint one thing (that went wrong). At the end of the day, we just didn't get the job done.''

Paetsch, 26, is a journeyman blue-liner who has seven goals and 35 assists in 157 career NHL games.

The Blue Jackets then sent Jurcina back to Washington. They had acquired him along with forward Chris Clark earlier this season from the Capitals for forward Jason Chimera. In return, Columbus received a conditional sixth-round draft pick because Jurcina, injured during the Olympics, will soon undergo sports-hernia surgery that will sideline him for 2-4 weeks.

Jurcina and Modin both played in the Vancouver Olympics, Jurcina for Slovakia and Modin for Sweden.

Jurcina, 26, had one goal and two assists in 17 games with Columbus.

The Blue Jackets then dealt the 35-year-old Modin to Los Angeles for a conditional seventh-round pick. Modin has seen only limited action this season due to a series of injuries. Modin won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

The left winger has 222 goals and 225 assists in 838 career NHL games, but had just two goals and four assists in 24 games this season.

The day ended with Howson dealing for Rust and Kolarik. Around Columbus, when the talk turns to a Michigan center, everybody wants to know what kind of a blocker he is.

The moves helped add some fresh faces and attitudes to a team that is built on youth, with 25-year-old captain Rick Nash and 21-year-old franchise goaltender Steve Mason.

Roy had played well at times this season, contributing 10 assists in 31 games. Picard had never lived up to his draft-day promise, mustering no goals and two assists in 67 games with the Blue Jackets.

Tagged: Sabres, Hurricanes, Capitals, Blue Jackets, Jason Chimera, Rick Nash, Raffi Torres, Chris Clark, Alexandre Picard, Milan Jurcina, Nathan Paetsch, Mathieu Roy, Steve Mason

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