NHL

Klesla traded to Phoenix for two players

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have dealt their last original player, sending defenseman Rostislav Klesla to the Phoenix Coyotes for left wing Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto.

Columbus general manager Scott Howson announced the trade on Monday, two hours before the NHL's trade deadline.

Columbus also sent minor league forward Dane Byers, acquired from the New York Rangers in November, to the Coyotes.

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Klesla, hampered by injuries the past two seasons, was the expansion club's first-round pick (No. 4 overall) in the 2000 draft. The 28-year-old defenseman had three goals and seven assists in 45 games this year with a plus-10 rating.

He has three years remaining on a contract that pays him almost $3 million a year, through the 2013-14 season.

Klesla has size (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) to help the Coyotes' blue line.

''It's a great opportunity,'' Klesla said on TSN. ''I've heard good things about the team there. They're pretty tough to play against when I played them. It's pretty exciting. I'll try to do as much as I can to get them into the playoffs.''

The trade partners are teams fighting for spots in the crowded Western Conference standings.

Upshall, 27, was the No. 6 pick in the 2002 draft. He had 16 goals and 11 assists this season and 80 goals and 85 assists in 340 career games with Nashville, Philadelphia and Phoenix. The Blue Jackets, badly in need of players with an edge, coveted a player who is tough and has offensive skills.

Last week, Upshall was suspended two games by the NHL for a hit on Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis. Upshall received a boarding penalty, and Bartulis left the game with a shoulder injury.

Lepisto, a 26-year old player from Finland, has four goals and seven assists this season and five goals and six assists in 131 career games. He was a third-round pick in the 2004 draft by Washington.

Upshall, making $2.25 million this season, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Lepisto, eligible to be a restricted free agent, is making $800,000.

Byers, 25, had 12 goals and 22 assists in 64 games this season with Springfield and Connecticut of the AHL.

Tagged: Flyers, Coyotes, Blue Jackets, Rostislav Klesla, Scottie Upshall, Sami Lepisto

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