New Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had Kris Russell during his time in Columbus. He knows that the former defenseman-of-the-year in the Canadian Hockey League still offers major offensive upside.
He also could see that Blues defenseman Nikita Nikitin remained in a weird second-year funk.
So he nodded in approval when Blues general manager Doug Armstrong dealt Nikitin to the Jackets for Russell.
After scoring 21, 22 and 23 points during his previous three seasons in Columbus, it will be interesting to see if Russell can get back on track for the Blues. This deal allows him to escape a moribund team and join a squad with serious playoff aspirations.
Nikitin, meanwhile, gets a fresh start in Columbus after faltering mightily for the Blues. The worse case scenario for the Blue Jackets has the team saving roughly $700,000 in salary for a seventh defenseman. Nikita is a rangy defender with a smooth style and good skill, so he could reemerge.
Check out my story on STLToday.com for more on this trade and more NHL news, notes and links.