directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Where there's smoke there must be fire...

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Where there's smoke there must be fire...

I'm sure many of you have seen the entries in the Puck-racker's blog about NY Rangers scouts in Nationwide for the past few weeks. Where now Larry Brooks of the NY Post chimes in:

Indeed, with 20-year-old Marc Staal finally beginning to act his age, and with expensive veterans Marek Malik and Paul Mara recently reduced to roles as scratches, it is believed the Blueshirts' recent concentrated scouting of the Blue Jackets has been focused on putting together a deal to pry either veteran Adam Foote or top-four defenseman Rostislav Klesla out of Columbus.

The 36-year-old Foote, a physical presence the Rangers so obviously lack on the blue line, is on the final year of a three-year contract at $4.6M per that contains a no-trade clause he would have to waive in order to come to New York.

If willing, the two-time Cup-winner with Colorado will become one of the prime rentals on the market as the Feb. 26 deadline approaches. Hence, the Rangers' attempt for a pre-emptive strike.

Klesla, the multi-dimensional fourth-overall selection in the 2000 Entry Draft who will turn 26 in March, is under contract through the 2009-10 season at $1.6M per.

The Blue Jackets, who have scored four goals in their last four games, are believed primarily interested in Petr Prucha. The Rangers, who have approximately $2.25M of full season cap space which to work, would likely look to send either Mara ($3M) or Malik ($2.5M) to Columbus in an expanded deal that could include either left wing Jason Chimera or right wing David Vyborny. Obtaining Klesla would almost certainly require much more going the other way.
The 28-year-old, 6-foot-2, 215-pound Chimera, drafted by Sather's Oilers in 1997, has gone 17 straight games without scoring, so he'd obviously fit right in on Broadway. Earning $875,000, he's eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.

Vyborny, who will turn 33 next month and is also an impending unrestricted free agent, was drafted by Sather's Oilers in 1993. The 5-10 Czech native, who has scored two goals in 28 matches, played the final two games before the Christmas break after spending three weeks on IR with a groin injury. He's earning $2.2M.

Regardless of whether they can create a match with Columbus, whose first-year GM Scott Howson was originally hired for a management position by Sather's Oilers in 1994, the Rangers have no long-term intention of carrying either Mara or Malik as their seventh defenseman.

There is something obviously in the works here between these two squads. Whether something materializes or not who knows. I will say that I don't see the Jackets interested in any of the players Brooks lists -- they are the cast offs:

Prucha - two goals in the past 30+ game. He's a slender build and really wouldn't be much different than keeping Vyborny. I mean, who is gonna get this guy the puck here if a Drury or Gomez can't there? The guy is also on the books for 1.6 mil this year and next.

Malik - a guy who has been benched by the Rangers, why would the Jackets want his guy back? This team has enough slow prodding defensemen. He makes 2.5 this year and is a UFA.

Mara - another guy who Brooks mentions has been benched. He's in the last year of his deal making 3 mil. He's got 6 points in 30 games and is a -2. Again, don't see the need as he'd be redundant on this roster but of the three he's the most interesting.

Instead I think if the Jackets were to deal a Klesla or a Vyborny they'd want younger players back with a higher upside. Guys who play a "Hitch style". That is guys who compete every shift and play a solid North American style. They could also desperately use a puck mover back on the d-line.

So looking at the Rangers roster I think you'd see more interest in guys like Dubinsky, Sanguinetti, Girardi and of course Staal (obviously). They aren't going to make a deal for Rangers' cast offs who probably can't help this team now and won't in the future.

I can see the Jackets dealing all of the guys Brooks listed especially Vyborny and Foote. To deal Klesla they would have to get some kind of young puck mover on the backend in return. To deal Chimera it would have to be a for a player they really covet in return.

You won't see big names like Drury, Gomez, Shanahan or Jagr coming back so any thoughts of that should be ended. Howson has a plan for the offseason and I don't think it involved committing to those contracts and/or players at this point in January. He'll want to see what guys like Brassard bring to this team and whose available at the deadline and into the offseason. He won't burn up all the payroll flexibility he gains by losing a Foote, Fedorov, Vyborny, Peca etc this early.

It does look like these two teams could make potential good trading partners. Both could use a shakeup and have complimentary assets. Guess we'll have to wail until after the roster freeze lifts tomorrow to see if indeed there is any fire here.


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