On Thursday afternoon, Howson finalized a deal with Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren that was six months in the making, acquiring veteran center Jeff Carter in exchange for wing Jakub Voracek and a pair of 2011 draft picks in the first (No. 8) and third (No. 68) rounds.
"We've been working on this for a long time, it seems," Howson said during a news conference at the City Center Marriott. "We had discussions about various players over six months and I thought we were getting close over the last three or four days. It crystallized (Thursday) around noon and we moved forward."
The deal wasn't made official until Howson included a third-round choice. Howson admitted Holmgren had inquired about top prospect Ryan Johansen on several occasions but that he had no interest whatsoever in parting with last year's top draft pick.
"If you look around the League, most of the top lines have an elite pairing together and we've never had two elite forwards … we've never had an elite forward with Rick and so we're looking forward to them playing together and developing that chemistry," Howson said. "We think we have some other players who are going to get there, but certainly those two are exciting for our team."
The 26-year-old Carter, whom the Flyers selected with the No. 11 pick in the first round in 2003, had 36 goals, 66 points and a career-high plus-27 rating this past season. His top offensive season was in 2008-09 when he scored 46 goals and finished with 84 points. Carter had 181 goals and 343 points in 461 games during six seasons with Philadelphia.
"More than likely (Carter and Nash will play together)," coach Scott Arniel said. "I don't imagine Rick would be too happy if I had them both split up. Both guys are big and protect pucks. They have a great nose for the net with big shots, so we'll figure it all out."
Howson said Nash was one of the first players he contacted following the deal. He had not yet reached out to Carter, but intends to do so during the next two days.
"We all have to understand this is a very emotional time for any player that gets traded," Howson said. "(Carter) is going through an emotional period now, but we'll talk very shortly and we'll plan on visiting him in the near future as soon as we get this draft done."
The deal was one of three major transactions done by the Flyers the day before the start of the 2011 Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
After trading Carter, Holmgren dealt captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for prospect Brayden Schenn and forward Wayne Simmonds. He then signed pending free-agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a contract reportedly worth $51 million over nine years.
"These are two elite players (Carter and Richards) to be traded in one day, and it's a little bit unprecedented in our League," Howson said.
Said Arniel: "I was a little bit surprised both (Carter and Richards) were going. Obviously they have a game plan and got an idea of what they're going to do. But that's their business on how they're going to go about things. We're excited and I think that Columbus Blue Jacket fans are pretty excited about this day."
The fans were certainly on Howson's mind during the whole process of consummating the deal.
"I think the time has come for us to do something like this to try and bring an immediate impact on our team," he said. "I don't take trading away a Jake Voracek, a 21-year-old player who's got tremendous upside, or the eighth overall pick, lightly. But our fans have been very patient. It's been 10 years now and we just had to do something that's going to make us better right now."
On top of that, Howson knows that in order to land that potential big name free-agent defenseman, the team just had to be more attractive. He believes he accomplished that with the acquisition of Carter.
"I think (the trade) shows people we made a statement," Howson said. "We're trying to get better now and hopefully they'll see us as a more attractive destination because we haven't done enough winning in Columbus to let that sell itself."
Voracek is also a former first-round pick, having been drafted No. 7 by the Blue Jackets in 2007. His second season was his most productive, as he finished with 16 goals and 50 points. He followed up with 14 goals and 46 points last season. Voracek is durable, having missed just five games in three NHL seasons; he has 39 goals and 134 points in 241 games.
"I don't think we were going to get the center in free agency … it's just too hard to get one," Howson said. "So it was important we got the center here."
Carter has 11 years and $58 million remaining on a 14-year contract, an average cap hit of $5.27 million according to CapGeek.com. Voracek just completed his entry-level contract and made $1.27 million this past season. He is set to be a restricted free agent on July 1.
Howson has no concerns with Carter's contract.
"We think it's a really good contract, and we're happy to have him," he said.
"You always wonder what you're going to get (through the Draft) but the tough part about that is that player may not come to help you in two to three years," Arniel said. "We needed some help right now. We talked to our players at the end of the season and they wanted to know what we were going to do and we said we're going to try to improve our hockey club. One of the assets we had was that eighth pick and it wasn't a secret.
"Much of the League knew we were willing to move it. Maybe we do miss out on a great player taken at No. 8, but we're prepared to live with that because we have a quality All-Star player who can help us right now."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale