On what was an overall very quiet day of the trade deadline, the Coyotes made a last second move .to improve their struggling defensive unit Phoenix traded forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto to Columbus for veteran defenseman Rostislav Klesla and minor leaguer winger Dane Byers.
In 61 games this season, Upshall has only 27 points, but his 16 goals were tied for the team lead with Taylor Pyatt and Radim Vrbata. He has had only one goals during the month of February though. The 26-year-old Lepisto has 11 goals and has +11 plus/minus in 51 games so far this season. Klesla is hard-nosed and big bodied d-man, who isn’t a big time scorer. A original member of the Blue Jackets after being drafted in the first round back in 2000, he has 10 points and a +10 plus/minus in 45 games. Byers is a career minor leaguer, who is a former Rangers prospect.
When taking a quick glance at this deal, you probably will be scratching your head. This move doesn’t save much money. Both Upshall and Lepisto combined contracts equal what Klesla is making and the former Blue Jacket is signed through 2013/2014. What this move does signal is that the Coyotes feel that they are in desperate need of defensive help with Ed Jovanovski out for the next several weeks and Klesla could be a replacement for Jovo for the next several seasons.
Losing Upshall does hurt. He was arguably the Coyotes most talented goal scorer, but Upshall has had troubles staying healthy throughout his career. This year and back in 2007-2008 are the only two seasons where the young forward has played in 61 games or more. Being a free agent during the offseason, there would have been no guarantee that Upshall would have been brought back next season. At least Phoenix comes away with something in this deal.
Upshall’s departure is a bit easier to take though with how well Mikkel Boedker has played since he was brought back up from San Antonio earlier this month. The 21-year-old has had six points in his last four games alone. Brett MacLean could always be brought back up as well if the Coyotes are in need of a scoring punch. He has nothing left to prove at the minor league level and he has shown that he can score with the big club in limited action.
It is hard to say whether or not this deal will help propel the Coyotes into the playoffs. Phoenix is now relying on more young, but talented goal scorers. Of course you never know what you are going to get from younger players. One thing is for sure though, a healthy Klesla will help a blue line that has really struggled over the past three games.