The Ottawa Senators continued their aggressive rebuilding process Saturday morning, acquiring highly rated but underperforming Russian prospect Nikita Filatov from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In exchange, the Senators surrendered a third-round pick, 63rd overall, in the 2011 entry draft.
Filatov was the sixth player chosen in the 2008 entry draft, a highly skilled Russian with decent English, whose only goal was to play in the NHL. But he had a difficult time finding a fit in Columbus, and was back and forth between Russia, their farm team and the NHL ever since. This past year, Filatov got into 23 NHL games, scoring no goals and only seven assists, while playing just over 12 minutes per night.
So he represents a project for the Senators, but at least a project with some skills. It will be up to new coach Paul MacLean to get what he can out of Filatov.
Blue Jackets' general manager Scott Howson said the decision to move Filatov was an organizational concession that it was "time to move on from your mistakes."
"I'm not in any way, shape or form saying that Nikita is not going to play in the NHL. It just didn't work for Columbus."
So he thinks Filatov can still have a viable NHL career?
"Absolutely," answered Howson. "You won't find many more talented players. He's got to sort some things out himself and you know what? That happens sometimes, when you go through changes.
"This league is full of players who've had to go through two or three teams to become good players."
Howson essentially replaced Filatov on the roster with the far more experienced Jeff Carter, acquired on Thursday in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, which also cost them the No. 8 overall pick in Friday's draft, plus Jakub Voracek, another high-draft choice like Filatov that they've now traded away.
Howson still has not spoken to Carter and is aware, from his agent, that the news of the deal left him feeling upset and distraught.
"It was a shocking thing for him; it was emotional; so we have to let that settle," said Howson. "I certainly believe there'll be an adjustment for him when he comes to Columbus to play. There certainly was for R.J. Umberger. The Flyers do a great job of attaching people to their organization. It's a great place to play. It's a great city - and he had made a long-term commitment to Philadelphia. Now, this surprised him. So it's not surprising what he's going through."
Howsom called Carter the first "true No. 1 centre" in Columbus history.
"The market for No. 1 centres is really scarce," said Howson. "If you go back for at least a decade, there's been two trades of No. 1 centres - Joe Thornton and Brad Richards. Then we had two trades in one day for legitimate No. 1 centres (Carter and Mike Richards, dealt by Philadelphia to the Los Angeles Kings). So it's not very often it happens. I'd been talking to Paul (Holmgren, the Flyers' GM) for a long time about this and when the opportunity was there, we were going to put our best foot forward in order to make it happen."
As for Filatov, Howsom he wasn't prepared to trade him at all costs; and if there hadn't been a viable offer made, they would have permitted him to play in Russia next year and then reassess the situation at that point.
"Maybe we would have seen a different player at the end of it."