directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Howson on the clock!

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Howson on the clock!

With no CBJ games between now and the NHL Trade Deadline the spotlight has shifted from the on ice games to off ice activities... yep --- its Trade Deadline time -- and if your like me (which you probably are if your reading this blog) then its one of the funnest times of the year to be an NHL fan.

What makes it even more interesting this year is the how big of player the Jackets could be this year. They have 7 potential unrestricted free agents and of course the talk of Jackets fans everywhere is this Brad Richards situation.

First lets take a look at the unrestricted free agents and their situations in terms of their performance, importance to the team and then I'll give a prediction as to what I think will be their fate come Tuesday 3:00 p.m.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Sergei Fedorov
The most likely of all UFA's to be to move by the deadline. Sergei Fedorov has 28 points and is a -3. He is the best center we have although I don't think that's saying a whole lot. Some folks may say he can't be dealt because he's to important to a playoff run but I disagree. Fedorov is no more than a 2nd/3rd line center but still has that "name" value. I think this team has just as good of a chance at getting into the show with or without him and Howson has a real good opportunity to flip him for an asset(s) that can help now and in the future and he won't be able to pass that up.

Prediction - Fedorov is dealt for a young NHL ready prospect. Likely destination Ottawa, Detroit or Montreal.

David Vyborny
Vyborny is have an off year. He's only got 19 points in 54 games and is a -10. His game just does not fit into a Hitch coached team. He's a finesse player who has lost a step. Still though there will probably still be a market for Vybes and I think Howson will move him. Again, moving Vyborny won't impact whether or not this team gets into the show.

Prediction - Vyborny is traded for a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Likely destination, somewhere in the Eastern Conference.

Michael Peca
Peca is 3rd in scoring on Jackets with 29 points in 48 games. Peca's future with this team really depends on what happens with Fedorov. If Fedorov is dealt I have a hard time seeing Howson part with Peca because if the team really wants to make a run it will need Peca's presence and leadership down the middle of the lineup.

Prediction - because I firmly believe Fedorov is dealt and with the way the team has stayed in the race, I think Howson retains Peca to help with the playoff push but is not resigned in the offseason.

Ron Hainsey
Hainsey is a bit of a wild card. He leads all Jackets defensemen 28 points in 61 games and is a +3. He's definitely improved in the defensive area of his game but is not physical. The problem is that 20 of his 28 points have come on the PP, he's not a great puck mover and that he will command a salary that I don't think the Jackets will even coming close to paying. With the addition of Tarnstrom I really think Hainsey is expendable given the fact that I'm convinced he's not in the long term plans for this franchise.

Prediction - this is a tough call but I'm gonna say Hainsey is moved. I think a team like San Jose desperately needs a puck mover and either them or someone else will make an offer to Howson that he just won't be able to turn down.

Jan Hejda
Hejda has done an really admirable job this season. He leads the team with a +9 and paired with Foote he has logged alot of tough minutes at even strength and on the PK. Here's the thing though, Hejda came out publicly and said he's love to sign a long term deal here. Since then all we've heard from the CBJ offices are pin drops in regards to this guy. I get the sense he is another player while performing admirably the Jackets won't be resigning this year as they'll want to use his money to go in another direction. I think he's very movable under the right circumstances. He reminds me of Suchy as a guy who plays well but is very replaceable.

Prediction - If Hainsey is moved I think the Jackets sit on Hejda. If Hainsey isn't move then I think Hejda may be. At the end of the day though I think Hejda is retained for the playoff push then walks as a UFA.

Adam Foote
Before the last couple of days I would have thought Foote was a lock to be moved. With the team going 3-2 on the road trip and still hanging around I don't think Howson can move the team's captain and Hitch's most important leader and still hope to make a playoff push. He's said to be asking between 3 to 4 mil over 2 years. My guess is that that Jackets want 3 and Foote wants 4 -- is there a middle ground here? I think so.

Prediction - Foote is resigned to a 2 year 3.7 million per deal.

Dick Tarnstrom
For me Transtrom is the easiest guy to predict as the Jackets just traded for him a few weeks ago. I don't see Howson turning right around and flipping this guy. Tarnstrom is the key that makes Hainsey expendable and has 4 points in 8 games.

Prediction - Tarnstrom is retained and resigned. His perfomance down the stretch will be a key factor in determining whether he is resigned.

So there you have it. Lots of variables and with the recent surge Howson has a delicate balance to obtain here. He can't sell everyone off as that will send the wrong message to the fan base that he is throwing in the towel -- and with season ticket renewals going out and the team only 5 points out well that would just be bad business. He also can't hang onto all of these players especially when there will be a demand for them and moving them can help the franchise now and in the future.

So Howson has some interesting decisions to make. He could be a buyer, seller and trader. He's got a real opportunity to shape this franchise for years to come.

Which brings us to Brad Richards.

By now everyone reading this has certainly heard that the Jackets are very much in the mix for the 27 years old #1 pivot. Obtaining this guy would be a bold move for Scott Howson and the Jackets. Obtaining him would send a strong message that the Jackets aren't screwing around - they want the playoffs now and in the future. This would show the Jackets are ready to spend if its on the right players that address real needs. Well as I've posted before, Richards addresses a HUGE need on this roster and that's a #1 center.

Here is what we know. We know Howson will not give up Nash, Zherdev, Leclaire, Russell, Brassard, Voracek or Mason. That leaves everyone else in play.

We know Tampa does not want UFAs (or rentals) and what they do want are young cap friendly players that will give them flexibility in their budget to resign Dan Boyle, find a legit #1 goalie and resign their franchise player in Vincent Lecavalier next year.

That leaves a truck load of Jackets prospect and young players Brule, Fritsche, Tollefsen, Klesla, Lindstrom and Methot to make some sort of deal. Draft picks could also be included.

Keep in mind one of the biggest assets the Jackets have is that they are willing to take on the 7.8 million contract which is a big key to this deal. There just aren't many teams in a position to do such a thing.

Its said that the Lightning management are meeting tomorrow with the two ownership groups (the Lightning were just sold) to discuss the different options and hopefully make a decision.

It has also been said that Brad Richards is willing to waive his no trade clause and Columbus is on his list of teams he'd be willing to go to.

This trade has the potential to define Howson's GM tenure and would be a bold blockbuster move -- its ballsy but I think its a calculated decision based on needs, what will be available in the market place this offseason, and ownership's willingness to open the pocket book -- I also think its exactly what the Jackets need in terms of where their franchise is and it will completely re-energize this fan base.

Also keep an eye on Manny Malhotra. I think there may be a market for him and I think the Jackets would take that opportunity to offload him for the right deal.

For those that want up to minute trade happenings here are a few good sites: Trade Deadline '08 Trade Centre '08 Trade Tracker

ESPN Trade Tracker

Stay tuned Jackets fans. Its gonna get real interesting around these parts so sit back, strap in and lets see how this unfolds.


1 comment:

Pub said...

We know that Tampa needs a goalie. Wonder if we can work a 3 way trade out with somebody to get them that.