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Upshall, 27, was a No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft (sixth overall). He had 16 goals and 11 assists this season and 80 goals and 85 assists in 340 career games with Nashville, Philadelphia and Phoenix. The Blue Jackets, badly in need of players with an edge, coveted a player who was tough in addition to having offensive skills.

Upshall last week was suspended two games by the league for a hit on Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis. Upshall received a two-minute boarding penalty, and Bartulis left the game with a shoulder injury.

Lepisto, a 26-year old from Finland, has four goals and seven assists this year and five goals and six assists in 131 career games. He was a third-round pick (66th overall) in the 2004 draft by Washington.

Upshall, making $2.25 million this year, is an unrestricted free agent after the season. Lepisto, a restricted free agent after the season, is making $800,000.

“(The trade) will give us some flexibility as we move forward into the long-term future,” Howson said. “But this was about now, really, in trying to give our team a little boost as we try and make the playoffs.”

Byers, 25, scored 12 goals with 22 assists in 64 American Hockey League games with Springfield and Connecticut this season.

Columbus had wanted to swing a deal for a bigger name, perhaps Dallas’ Brad Richards. That didn’t pan out.

“We had some discussions on some of the bigger name players,” Howson said. “We made some overtures and talked about some players. We weren’t in the ballpark, I guess _ nobody ended up really being in the ballpark. The cost was high and there’s just some players who weren’t going to be included in our proposals. I’ll just leave it at that.”


AP Sports Writer John Marshall in Phoenix contributed to this report.