directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: We want trades!

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We want trades!

Its that time of year again, the NHL trade deadline is only a few short days away (Feb 26th) and the fans are itching for some action.

Yesterday they finally got some with the Ottawa Senators dealing Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Caronlina Hurricanes for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore.

Many look at this trade as the first of many leading up to the deadline while many others, including myself, said finally -- some action!

The question now becomes is will the Blue Jackets be active? Last year former GM Doug MacLean only made a couple of minor deals. He dumped Anson Carter for to offload salary and for whatever he could get (5th round pick from Carolina) a few days before the deadline and then also moved backup goaltender Ty Conklin to Buffalo on the deadline for another 5th round pick.

Pretty boring day from a Columbus perspective.

This year I forsee a lot more activity coming from Nationwide Blvd. The Jackets are right on the bubble of the playoff picture but I think regardless of whether they stay in the hunt or not, they will make some moves.

The Jackets are just loaded with the juicy kinds of pieces Stanley Cup hopefulls desire and that's experienced veterans, especially those with playoff experience, who are on the last year's of their contracts. These players are often referred to as "rentals".

I'm going to rank the probability of these Blue Jacket "rentals" (with percentage) getting traded starting with #1:

1. Sergei Fedorov - 95% - yes I know we are thin at center but Sergei Fedorov is not the solution and is not in the long terms plans of this franchise. His value will be to high at the deadline not to move him and acquire assets that help us in the long term picture. These assets could be in the form of young roster players or high draft picks which could be used to acquire the right piece in the offseason. Sergei Fedorov will not be the difference if this team makes the playoffs or not.

2. David Vyborny - 85% - Vyborny's game does not work in a Hitchcock system, that should be obvious by now. I think Howson deals him for whatever he can get - he will be this year's Anson Carter so to speak. He's the only remaining orginal Blue Jacket and it will be a sad day when he moves on but tough decisions (like trading Shelley) have to be made to move this franchise forward. Dealing Vyborny will not hurt our playoff chances.

3. Michael Peca - 50% - I think Peca's future really depends on how the Jackets do over this 5 game road trip coming up. He is gelling really well now with Jason Chimera & Nik Zherdev as that line has been our best. If the Jackets remain on the cusp of the playoffs he'll be retained - especially if Feds is dealt. If they fall out of contention then I think he's dealt to a legit contender to have another chance at Lord Stanley and we collect another pick or middle of the road prospect. I think Howson will give him some input if there are multiple interested parties.

4. Ron Hainsey - 30% - Hainsey is another guy I don't see in the Jackets long term future. He's had a good year but I think the Jackets won't want to pay what Hainsey will demand and will use that money to invest in a higher caliber puck moving d-man. I think his immediate future will really ride on how Dick Tarnstrom performs over the next two weeks. If Tarnstrom excels Hainsey could become expendable at the deadline and the Jackets could collect more assets. I think its unlikely he moves as the Jackets need all the puck-movers they can get -- even though Hainsey still struggles at times to find the open man on the rush. He could prove to be to valuable towards a playoff push to deal.

5. Adam Foote - 20% - All indications point towards Foote wanting to stay and the Jackets wanting to keep him. Ever since Hitch arrived and strated utlizing Foote to his strengths (ES and PK) Foote has been a much more effective Jacket. Its been reported that both parties would like a 2 year deal which I think is reasonable. The question now becomes money. If the two sides can agree on a fair price then I think Foote is resigned. According to Puck-rakers today Howson and Foote are meeting again today. If talks break down then I think Howson has to deal what's best for the franchise and ship him for assets. His value on the market could over-ride his value towards a playoff push if terms aren't agreed to.

6. Jan Hejda - 10% - I'd be absolutely shocked if both Foote and Hejda got dealt and out of the two I think Foote would have more value on the market for his playoff experience and "name recognition". Besides our lack of depth Hejda has been just as valuable, is cheaper and is younger. I can't see the Jackets giving him unless that "right" deal comes along. Ultimately his value towards helping this team over-rides his value on the market.

So that's our list of unrestricted-free-agents-to-be (i.e "rentals) but I don't think it stops there. Although unlikely here are a couple of more names from the Jackets roster who may be shopped:

1. Dan Fritsche - will be an RFA after this season and could be attractive to some teams. Fritsche hustles and has 8 goals but the Jackets need more scoring and are deep at wing. He could be part of a larger deal to bring back the "right" piece.

2. Manny Malhotra - he's got a year left on his deal but I'm not sold that the new regime (Howson/Hitch) are sold on Manny. He's great in the face-off circle but what else does he really add? If someone inquires about Malhotra I think the Jackets listen intently.

3. OK Tollefsen - I think the Jackets have big plans to upgrade on defense this offseason but if, for instance the Oilers do want to move a guy like Pitkanen, Tollfesen could be part of a package to go the other way. The Jackets don't have a lot of toughness on the blueline and losing Tollefsen would hurt in that area but I think he would be available again for the "right" piece.

Not all of these guys will go anywhere at the deadline mind you. In fact I think just two, maybe three guys, out of this group will be dealt. I think ideally Howson will look to return young roster players, or prospects who are near full time NHLers, but would settle for picks that he can perhaps deal later on this offseason for roster player(s). Teams with cup dreams will be hesitant to deal anything off their current roster which can complicate things.

Remember that Scott Howson is going to do what's best for the franchise. The Jackets are not cup contenders yet and that is the ultimate goal here - to build a team to win the cup - not just for one year but for many years. If he's sees a deal that may slightly hurt us this year but could really be a big piece towards buidling that cup contender then he will pull the trigger.

In contrast to that, if he's sees a short term solution that can help us now without sacraficing plans for the future (ala the Tarnstrom deal) then I also see him pulling the trigger.

Luckily we've got some competent leadership now who I fully trust as a fan to make the "right" moves.

So there you have it. I'll be blogging quite a bit on potential trades leading up to the deadline. Soon I'll attempt to look into my crystal ball and predict a couple of CBJ trades so check back often!


No comments: