directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Key to taking next step

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Key to taking next step

I was thinking today about what this team really needs to get over the start scoring the goals that have been lacking.

To me its all starts with an upgrade or two on defense in the puck moving department. Dick Tarnstrom is a step in that direction but appears to be more of a short term bandaide solution to help immediately this season.

But what about the next season or the following season? I think the organization has to look towards the unrestricted free agent market this summer or look to wheel and deal via trade(s).

Some of you are probably saying WHAT? We need goals! Trust me when I say goals are generated from good quick outlet passes and defensemen on the powerplay who always find the open man whether it be on the rush or if they are controlling the zone. It all starts there. Unfortunately we just don't have the transition.

That's not to say our offense doesn't need some work but that's another story for another day.

As of today there are 3 guys who may be available this offseason as unrestricted free agents and could help us quite a bit but will also cost a pretty penny. Lets take a look at them:

Wade Redden is a #1 defesemen who can play in any situation -- PP/PK/ES -- all equally well. He's 30 and has a ton of NHL experience. Ottawa is a team with a lot of high dollar contracts and I don't see how they can afford him. Couple that with the fact that Redden has been rumored to have already tried to been traded by the Sens but didn't waive his no trade clause.

TSN's take on Redden:
Assets Plays with ice water in his veins and never gets rattled. Is extremely durable, a good skater and fine passer. Owns an accurate point shot.
Flaws Needs to play a more physical game and initiate contact with greater frequency. Has more to offer in terms of offensive production.
Career potential No. 1 defenseman.

2007-08 Ottawa NHL 55 6 26 32 +16 48 100 6.00
2006-07 Ottawa NHL 64 7 29 36 +1 50 122 5.74
2005-06 Ottawa NHL 65 10 40 50 +35 63 153 6.54
2004-05 Did not play - - - - - - - - -
2003-04 Ottawa NHL 81 17 26 43 +21 65 175 9.71
2002-03 Ottawa NHL 76 10 35 45 +23 70 154 6.49
2001-02 Ottawa NHL 79 9 25 34 +22 48 156 5.77
2000-01 Ottawa NHL 78 10 37 47 +22 49 159 6.29
1999-00 Ottawa NHL 81 10 26 36 -1 49 163 6.13
1998-99 Ottawa NHL 72 8 21 29 +7 54 127 6.30
1997-98 Ottawa NHL 80 8 14 22 +17 27 103 7.77
1996-97 Ottawa NHL 82 6 24 30 +1 41 102 5.88

Very consistant and impressive statistics.

Next is Dan Boyle who is 31 and has a Stanley Cup to his credit with the Tampa Bay Lightning and can really put up the numbers offensively. Unfortunately for him he suffered a freak hand injury and has been sidelined most of the year. He is back now and has 7 points in 10 games. Tampa would like to keep him but with the money they have tied up in the big 3 (Lecavlier, St. Louis, Richards) I don't see how they can unless they move one. I think there is a high probability he becomes a UFA this offseason.

TSN's take on Boyle
Assets Runs a power play smoothly and with creativity. Puts up impressive point totals and has improved his overall play in the defensive zone.
Flaws Is not big or strong enough to handle NHL power forwards in front of the net.
Career potential Top four defenseman.

2007-08 Tampa Bay NHL 10 2 5 7 -6 10 19 10.53
2006-07 Tampa Bay NHL 82 20 43 63 -5 62 203 9.85
2005-06 Tampa Bay NHL 79 15 38 53 -8 38 153 9.80
2004-05 Djurgardens IF Swe 32 9 9 18 +4 47 79 11.39
2003-04 Tampa Bay NHL 78 9 30 39 +23 60 137 6.57
2002-03 Tampa Bay NHL 77 13 40 53 +9 44 136 9.56
2001-02 Tampa Bay NHL 41 5 15 20 -15 27 68 7.35
2001-02 Florida NHL 25 3 3 6 -1 12 31 9.68
2001-02 Total Fla/TB NHL 66 8 18 26 -16 39 99 8.08
2000-01 Florida NHL 69 4 18 22 -14 28 83 4.82

Boyle started off a litte slow but really came on in the 2002-2003 season and has taken off from there. He also is a product of Miami of OH.

Finally there is Brian Campbell of the Buffalo Sabres. Campbell is 28 and has really come into his own the past 3 seasons. There is a decent chance he'll get resigned but you never can tell what the Sabres will do. He'll be hotly pursued if he hits the open market.

TSN's take on Campbell
Assets Is an extremely gifted offensive talent. Has plenty of creativity and intelligence with the puck. Owns excellent mobility.
Flaws Can get easily knocked off the puck at the NHL level. Needs to play a tighter game in the defensive zone, so as to avoid being labeled a specialist.
Career potential Power play quarterback.

2007-08 Buffalo NHL 54 4 32 36 +2 8 88 4.55
2006-07 Buffalo NHL 82 6 42 48 +28 35 92 6.52
2005-06 Buffalo NHL 79 12 32 44 -14 16 105 11.43

Solid statistics and is just now hitting his prime. I also think this guy is an underrated hitter.

There are always trade options as well.

One name that has been in the headlines is the Oiler's Joni Pitkanen. I think it would be worth our while to see what it would take to land him. He's the young franchise defensemen that would be huge here plus his best years thus far have come under Hitch. That and he's only 25!

TSN's take on Pitkanen
Assets Has tremendous size and strength for the blueline position. Oozes offensive potential and displays plenty of grit, toughness and character.
Flaws Will need to play up to expectations in a tough sports city (Edmonton), which could be an intimidating factor throughout his career. Is somewhat fragile.
Career potential No. 2 defenseman.

2007-08 Edmonton NHL 39 7 9 16 +1 38 59 11.86
2006-07 Philadelphia NHL 77 4 39 43 -25 88 137 2.92
2005-06 Philadelphia NHL 58 13 33 46 +22 78 118 11.02
2004-05 Philadelphia AHL 76 6 35 41 +9 105 197 3.05
2003-04 Philadelphia NHL 71 8 19 27 +15 44 133 6.02

Had the one off year last year but the entire Flyers team did as they finished dead last in the NHL. He had two great years under Hitch which makes me believe he could blossom again under him.

Either way we need a top guy. We need more offense generated from the backend end of story.

My ideal defenisive lineup next season:

Redden/Campbell/Boyle/Pitkanen Klesla
Foote Hejda
Russell Tollefsen

*that's assuming we can get Foote for 2 years @ less that 3.5 per and Hejda stays on for 3 years @ less than 2 per; if either aren't in that ballpark then do what's best for the franchise and if that includes dealing them then so be it

Unfortunately a guy like Ron Hainsey may be the odd man out. He's played well for us but he will command close to 3 million a year and I don't think the Jackets have enough confidence he can get the job done for that amount of money.

Ron Hainsey is a 3/4 defensemen on our team - probably a 4/5 on most others. He's had a decent year but is not as strong in all 3 key areas.

So sure it would be great to pay 6-7 mil for Redden and pay Hainsey the 3 mil a year he's going to want but I don't think the org will be willing when their are other holes to fill.

..and trust me, its going to take 6 to 7 mil to land one of these guys. Sure its overpayment but that's the name of the game in unrestricted free agency. You just have to make sure you overpay for the right guy or you could handicap your franchise for the forseeable future. I'm confident the group of d-men I listed would be worth the overpayment.

So my priority list is as follows:

1. Wade Redden - solid #1 dman in all 3 zones and all 3 situations
2. Joni Pitkanan - ideal if somehow you can pull a trade off that makes sense now and in the future
3. Brian Campbell - younger version of Brian Boyle so I go with the youth
4. Dan Boyle - Stanley Cup winner and proven PP QB how has the experience and skillset this team desperately needs

If Tarnstrom steps in and performs then maybe he's another guy you look to keep. If Hainsey wants a 3 year deal at less than 2 mil and it doesn't hinder the organization's ability to get a one of those top guys then have at it.

There are tons of scenarios and you have to have a contingency to your contingency but that's what I'd shoot for.

So I start with defense as its the #1 priority after goaltending and then from there I look towards obtaining a center either again by UFA or by trade.


No comments: