Columbus facing critical summer choices

Updated: March 8, 2012, 11:12 AM ET
By Craig Custance

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There were times in the final hours before the NHL trade deadline, the most important one of his tenure, that Columbus GM Scott Howson needed a little reassurance. He was dealing veterans. He was getting calls about his captain, Rick Nash. It was all happening very fast. Too fast at times.

It was in those moments that the addition of Craig Patrick to the Blue Jackets' braintrust paid off the most. This was Patrick's 24th trade deadline, experience that is invaluable.

"It was nothing new," Patrick said during a Wednesday evening phone conversation. "It was business as usual."

Howson would field a phone call from one of his fellow general managers and, as he was having those conversations, Patrick's voice of reason was constant.

"Stay patient," Patrick said in the Columbus war room that afternoon. "Don't do something rash here. Let's stay patient."

Patrick was passing down advice he received from guys like Bob Johnson and Scotty Bowman when he was still maturing as a general manager.

"That's my inclination anyways," Howson said. "It was pretty stressful. Sometimes you only have moments to make the right decisions."

When 3 p.m. on arrived Feb. 28 and Columbus still had its captain, relief swept over Howson. Nash didn't get the trade he was seeking but Columbus didn't make a panic move that might have set the franchise back years either. It could end up being one of Howson's finest decisions as general manager.

"I was very pleased that we didn't make a deal because I just didn't feel like we had the right offer," Howson said. "We were committed to that. The price was going to be high. We didn't back off that. We didn't back off that."

Then Howson followed up with a comment that he and the entire organization are counting on: "I know we'll get better offers in the offseason."