directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Crystal ball time - a look at your 2008-2009 Columbus Blue Jackets v1.0

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Crystal ball time - a look at your 2008-2009 Columbus Blue Jackets v1.0

I've been thinkin about this for a while and wanted to give you a look at just what a guy like Scott Howson could do next year with all his financial flexibility and available assets. I want to show that although this season's playoff chances are bleak the future of this team is bright...and I'm talkin next year bright...for real this time....really I'm serious!

I'll revisit this a lot as we work our way towards the draft and unrestricted free agency but knowing what we know now, here is an attempt to look into my crystal ball and present you with your 2007-2008 Columbus Blue Jackets:

First here is what we know:

Nash (6.5) XXX Modin (3.5)
XXX XXX Zherdev (3.25)
Chimera (1.875) Malhotra (1.5) Brule (850k)
Boll (570k) Novotny (800k) Murray (600k)

Klesla (1.65) XXX
Russell (575k) Tollefsen (750k)

Norrena (900k)

RFAs: Fritsche, Leclaire
UFAs: Hainsey, Vyborny, Peca, Hejda, Tarnstrom

Signed for next year: 23.27 mil
Dollars available assuming 45 mil budget: 18.03 mil

Okay - so here is a scenario of what Howson could do with his available dollars and assets - explanations follow:

Move #1 - Goaltender Pascal Leclaire signed to 4 year 16 million dollar deal.
Explanation - Leclaire has proven this season that he can be durable and can be that franchise goaltender he is projected to be. Howson takes a bit of risk signing him to this big of contract as he's only been exceptional for one year but Lecalire is a RFA and goaltenders are the most important position on the ice. Howson doesn't take the chance of Leclaire getting an offer sheet and gets the deal done.

Move #2 - Defensemen Jan Hejda signed to 3 year 6 million dollar deal.
Explanation - Hejda has quickly proven his worth as a shutdown d-man. Its even become more apparent with his improved performance since Adam Foote's departure. Howson sees that and gives Hejda some long term security and a fair contract with the idea of keeping he and Klesla together at their shutdown pair.

Move #3 - Jackets trade for 23 year old center Jeff Carter at the draft. They move Giblert Brule and Colorado's first round pick for him. They sign Carter to 5 year 20 million dollar deal.
Explanation - The Jackets kick the tires on Patrick Marleau and Oli JOkinen. They've been told Marleau is a Canadian version of Sergei Fedorov who many times just goes through the motions and that leaves a sour taste - especially for what San Jose wants in return. They have to give up to much for Jokinen which they aren't prepared to do. Instead they target young Jeff Carter who is a RFA with the Flyers and wants more than the Flyers are willing to pay given their cap crunch so they part with him for a young inexpensive player in Brule and a pick. Carter gives the Jackets a young big North American center with 3 years of NHL experience under his belt, is a "now" player yet still has a very high ceiling. The idea here is to pair him with Nash for years to come. His point totals have risen every year and he's projected to finish with 54 points. Hitch also has experience with this player and Carter should hit the ground running with the system.

Move #4 - Jackets trade Manny Malhotra, Joakim Lindstrom and 4th round pick to Dallas for 37 year old center Mike Modano at the draft.
Explanation - This move reunites Modano with his old coach and gives Hitch that dependable reliable presence down the middle we know he loves. Yes Modano is older at 37 but he's got 2 years left on his deal at 2.25 mil a piece. He's projected to hit 56 points this season. His role in Dallas has declined over the past couple of years so I think with the arrival of Richards they may be ready to move on from the Modano era. They take on Manny in return to fill a center hole further down their lineup and we move a Lindstrom and a draft pick to sweeten the deal as well. Every lineup needs veterans to compliment youth and that, among offense b/c Modano can still bring 40-50 points a year, is what he brings. Plus can you really find anything better for a 2nd line center for 2.25 mil? Mike Modano is not Sergei Fedorov either in terms of cost or in terms of what's left in the tank. Another guy who understands the Hitch's system.

Move #5 - Ron Hainsey, David Vyborny, Michael Peca, Dick Tarnstrom not resigned
Explanation - The Jackets need serious upgrades in their top 6 thus David Vyborny is not resigned. After Carter and Modano are brought in, Michael Peca no longer fits the big picture is not resigned. Ron Hainsey wants to much money and the Jackets want an upgrade so both parties respectfully move on. Dick Tarnstrom is tenderd a low offer of around 1 mil to play in the bottom pair but he moves on wanting more money.

Move #6 - Jackets sign 28 year old left shot defenesemen Brian Campbell to 6 year 42 million dollar deal.
Explanation - Here is the biggie and lets not kid ourselves this is overpayment -- Jackets will have to overpay to get this kind of talent in Cbus as he will be coveted if not resigned by San Jose. The trades at the draft draw some serious attention to the Jackets which reflects positively on the team during the UFA period. This enables the Jackets to make a serious big time offer to the coveted mobile defensemen. This deal is for 7 mil a year with a no movement clause. This move finally gives Hitch his puck moving defensemen this team desperately needs and provides a huge splash for this franchise. The season ticket renewals really start coming in now.

Move #7 - Jackets sign 34 year old left winger Cory Stillman to two year 4.5 million dollar deal.
Explanation - With the trades at the draft and with Campbell signing on the Jackets grab the attention of Stillman. With an open top 6 winger position and a big need to increase scoring the Jackets grab this 15 year vet to solidfy their top 6. Stillman is on pace for 67 points this season.

Move #8 - Jackets sign 35 year old right shot defensemen Aaron Ward to 1 year 2 million dollar deal.
Explanation - This move gives Hitch a veteran d-man with a right shot. Howson is patient looking to fill this hole as he wants to make the numbers work. Ward is left on the market for a while so his price comes down and the Jackets get a bit of a deal to round out their defensive group.

Move #9 - Jackets resign coach Ken Hitchcock to new 3 year deal effective after the 2008-2009 season.
Explanation - This is a no brainer. The bigger threat here is if Howson can't add the key pieces needed to ice a winning team will Hitch even want to stick around after next season? Lets not let it get to that.

Move #10 - Forwards Voracek and Brassard both make the team out of camp and play on the 3rd line.
Explanation - Two spots will be open on that 3rd line and my money is on these two kids stepping up and grabbing them in camp. Remember how well Brassard and Voracek meshed with Chimear at last year's camp? I won't rule out Picard, Pineault, Sestito or Dorsette also competing for spots.

Move #11 - Defensemen Duvie Westcott bought out.
Explanation - Since Howson was unable to move Westcott via trade or waiver - the organization will be forced to buy him out at 75% of his remaining contract this summer.

So without further adu here is your first look at your 2008-2009 Columbus Blue Jackets:

Nash (6.5) Carter (4) Modin (3.5)
Stillman (2) Modano (2.25) Zherdev (3.25)
Chimera (1.875) Brassard (850k) Voracek (875k)
Boll (570k) Novotny (800k) Murray (600k)
Depth: Pineault/Picard/Sestito/Dorsette/Konopka/Legein

Campbell (7) Ward (2)
Klesla (1.65) Hejda (2)
Russell (575k) Tollefsen (750k)
Depth: Methot/Rome

Leclaire (4)
Norrena (900k)
Depth: Mason

Total spend: 45.92 mil

Our current top six projected points from this year:
Nash 42g, 25a = 67p
Zherdev 28g, 37a = 65p
Peca 5g, 31a = 36p
Modin 8g, 7a = 16p
Chimera 15g, 18a = 33p
Vyborny 6g, 21a = 27p

Total: 104g, 139a = 243p
Cost: 15.265

Proposed top six projected season point totals from this year:
Nash 42g, 25a = 67p
Zherdev 28g, 37a = 65p
Carter 30g, 24a = 54p
Modin 8g, 7a = 16p
Stillman 27g, 39a = 67p
Modano 21g, 35a = 56p

Total: 156g, 167a = 323p
Cost: 21.5
*note - Nash built in raise of 1 mil, Modin 750k, Zherdev 750k - total 2.5

Is 6.235 million worth 52 more goals, 28 more assists and a combined 80 more points? I'd say hell yes it is.

I think that lineup gives Hitch a whole lot more to work with. His skill is greatly upgraded. He gets his #1 puck mover in Campbell. He gets an experienced vet in Mara and retains his #1 shutdown pair in Klelsa/Hejda. He gets a much better look down the middle of his lineup with a young player in Carter who is approaching his prime and a veteran in Modano he can rely on in any situation. He also gets more scoring in his top six with Stillman.

He also gets tons of flexibility. Carter not meshing with Nash? Well lets see what Modano can do or maybe Brassard. Modin in a slump, well how does he look next to a vet like Modano? Its a bit weak on toughness but you do have guys like Sestito, Dorsette and Konopka available if you need that extra shot of grit against some opponents.

It also gives Howson a good mix of veterans and young talent in which will make not just one run at the playoffs but a sustained run over the next 6 or 7 years. Modin, Modano and Stillman's contracts will all expire in 2 years leaving plenty of budget room to resign Nash and to 1. bring in younger veterans to reload with or 2. sign younger guys like Brassard/Voracek/Russell to long term extensions after their rookie deals expire.

Of course I did go above my self imposed budget of 45 million but I would hope that ownership would losen the pruse strings in order for Howson to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.

Now of course this team won't look exactly like this but I think it accomplishes just what it has the potential to look like next year given the money and assets available.

Now its up to Howson to make it happen and I think you'll start seeing him execute the big pieces of his plan (he's done some stuff already in Chimera/Murray resigns and AJ/Westcott/Shelley/Foote/Feds moved) come draft time.



pete goegan said...

I really like the way you think, LTL! If it went down just this way, I'd be a very happy Jackets fan!

Matt said...

I gotta admit, while I'd like to keep Peca, if we could get that sort of line up going, I'd be thrilled!