By: Adam Gretz
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Tuesday evening that they have traded center Mark Letestu to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. Given that Letestu is a center, and the Penguins made two other roster transactions on Tuesday by sending forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Steve MacIntyre to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on conditioning assignments, it's only sure to increase the speculation and discussion as to whether or not captain Sidney Crosby is getting closer to making his season debut, even if the two events aren't related.
In 11 games this season Letestu has yet to score a goal and has recorded just one assist as his production has dropped significantly from a strong 2010-11 season that saw him score 14 goals and record 13 assists in 64 games. It was a strong rookie season that saw him play a strong all-around game and excel in the faceoff circle, finishing 16th in the NHL by winning over 55 percent of his draws.
The 26-year-old was signed by the Penguins as an undrafted free agent back in March, 2007. He's currently in the first year of a two-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $625,000.
Based on how much they've struggled in the early part of the season, currently owning the worst record in the NHL, it was only a matter of time until the Blue Jackets did something in an effort to reverse their fortune, but the addition of Letestu, another center, is an interesting addition given that it's probably one of the deepest positions on the roster.
General manager Scott Howson told Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline, via Twitter, "We like the player. It does not fill an immediate need, but you can never have too many centers. We think he's a top-9 talent."
Letestu's ability to win faceoffs, however, should be a welcome addition for a team that's currently 17th in the NHL when it comes to success in the circle.