The Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t make any really big moves on the first day of free agency, but they did add to their roster in some big ways.
The first move came when they signed goaltender Curtis McElhinney to a one-year, two-way contract, with a payout of $750,000 on the NHL level and $105,000 with the AHL. He was acquired by the Blue Jackets from the Phoenix Coyotes in February, along with two draft picks, in exchange for Antoine Vermette, but was injured and did not play in any games for Columbus. As a player in the Coyotes system during the 2011-12 season, he was 1-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and a .944 save percentage in two games with the Coyotes and had a 10-13-0 record with a 3.04 GAA and a .907 save percentage with the AHL’s Portland Pirates. McElhinney has also played with the Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators.
Shortly after signing McElhinney, the Blue Jackets made a trade with the Senators, sending defenseman Marc Methot to Ottawa in exchange for left winger Nick Foligno. Foligno, drafted by the Senators in 2006, had a career-high season in 2011-12 with 15-32-47, 124 penalty minutes and a +2 rating in 82 games, and he had 1-3-4 and eight PIM in seven games during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Methot takes with him a 2011-12 season that saw him go 1-6-7 with 24 PIM in 46 games before injury cut his season 28 games short.
Said General Manager Scott Howson of Foligno: “Nick is a versatile, durable two-way player who at age 24 is coming off the best season of his career. We’re excited about what he will add to our group of forwards and are very happy to have him join our hockey club.”
Methot, who had been drafted by the Blue Jackets in 2003, said that he’ll miss the only team for whom he’d played since breaking into the NHL. “I grew up there in that city and with those fans. They mean so much to me,” said Methot. “This is bittersweet for me, it really is. Because as much as I didn’t ever want to leave Columbus, I’m relieved that it’s Ottawa where I got traded. Everybody in the league dreams about being able to play at home, in front of your friends and family.”
The third move of the day involved signing Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to a standard three-year entry level contract. After spending four years with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts, Audy-Marchessault played with his first professional team, the Connecticut Whale, in the 2011-12 season. In 76 games with the Whale, he recorded 24-40-64, 54 PIM and a +1 rating, and he led the team in assists and power play goals while coming in second in goals and points.
The last move of the day involved signing center Adrian Aucoin to a one-year, $2 million contract plus bonuses. In 17 seasons, the 38-year-old Aucoin, who celebrates a birthday on July 3, has played with the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes, and he’s earned his 121-274-395, 777 PIM and +54 over 1,072 games. Aucoin was a part of the Phoenix Coyotes in the previous three seasons, and in the 2011-12 season he had 2-7-9, 42 PIM and a +14 in 64 games. In helping the Coyotes get to the Western Conference Final, he was 0-2-2 with 10 penalty minutes in 11 playoff games.
“Adrian was the first defenseman we contacted today and we are very pleased to bring him to Columbus,” Scott Howson said of Aucoin. “He is an experienced player who can move the puck and he reads the game very well. He will provide leadership and will be a great mentor to our young defensemen.”
Aucoin echoed Howson’s sentiments. “I know my role and the stage I’m at with my career. I enjoy helping guys figure it out, progress. It’s something I take pride in.”
With the four signings on Sunday, the Blue Jackets are on their way to building a strong, seasoned team with high expectations.