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Numbers Game: Leclaire, Vermette first to move

Scott Cullen
3/4/2009 2:04:57 PM
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A deal that has been rumoured for a while has been consummated between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Numbers Game looks at the Vermette-Leclaire swap.

Ottawa Gets: G Pascal Leclaire and a second-round pick.

Leclaire, 26, has struggled this season due to ongoing ankle problems, so it's possible to write-off his 3.83 goals against average and .867 save percentage as being injury-related.

Presumably, he'll be healthy next season and the Senators will not just need, but expect, Leclaire to play 55-60 games as a bona fide number one goaltender.

The reason that the Senators should be optimistic about Leclaire when healthy is that he has a strong pedigree.  The eighth overall pick in 2001, Leclaire was terrific in 2007-2008 when he played 54 games, registering nine shutouts, a 2.25 goals against average and .919 save percentage.  If he can put up numbers anything close to that, he'll be a major upgrade in goal for Ottawa.

Columbus could afford to move Leclaire due to this season's emergence of rookie goaltender Steve Mason.  With Mason locked in as the Blue Jackets' starter, there was little point in holding onto Leclaire, whose cap hit will be $3.8-million over the final two seasons of his contract (when he'll be paid $3.6-million and $4.8-million, respectively).

Brian Elliott, the 23-year-old who has had his moments since getting called up from Binghamton, will fall into the backup role behind Leclaire next season.

A second-round pick from Columbus, which figures to be near the middle of the round, will have some value for the Senators, though expectations need to be reasonable.  From 1995 through 2004, 29% of players picked in the 41-50 range have gone on to play 100 NHL games.

Columbus Gets: LW Antoine Vermette.

Vermette is a versatile 26-year-old forward who has primarily played left wing in Ottawa but, given Columbus' dearth of of scoring down the middle, Vermette could get a shot there.  Certainly if he ends up with Rick Nash (moving Manny Malhotra into his more customary checking role), then Vermette could see a real spike in his production.

It also doesn't hurt that Vermette is a terrific face-off man (58.4% this season) and has the speed to be an effective penalty-killer.

No matter whether or not he ends up down the middle or on the wing in Columbus, Vermette will fit in Columbus' top six forwards. 

Perhaps with the right chemistry, and a re-commitment to playing in all three zones, Vermette can regain the form that he showed last season when he scored a career-high 24 goals and 53 points, before falling off this season to just nine goals, 28 points and a minus-12 rating in 62 games.

Vermette will earn $3-million next season, the final year of his contract before he hits unrestricted free agency, with a salary cap hit of $2.7625-millio; certainly reasonable if he's playing a top six role and on special teams.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca




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