directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Howson looks into extending Hejda

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Howson looks into extending Hejda

The Dispatch indicated this morning that GM Scott Howson might not wait until the end of the season to talk contract extension with Jan Hejda.

Hejda is a 29 year old Czech defensemen playing in his 2nd NHL season. He's got 12 points (all assists) and leads this team in +/- with a +12 which is 8 better than the next closest guys in Klesla and Hainsey. He is also third on the team in minutes played.

Here's something also interesting about Hejda. His "quality of competition" is the highest of any Blue Jacket. Meaning more than any other CBJ player, he goes up against the other team's best players. Check it out here.

Its certainly a change of position from Howson as he has been really quite on Hejda and the other UFA defensemen (Hainsey, Tarnstrom) to be regarding contract extensions. In fact he has indicated that he would wait until the offseason to talk about extensions for all of his remaining UFAs even after Hejda came out publicly and said he'd like to sign long term in Columbus.

For me its pretty simple to see why Howson is reconsidering his position. With the departure of Adam Foote, Jan Hedja has simply proved in a short span that it wasn't Adam Foote propping up his game -- he was doing just fine all on his own. With and more imporantly without Foote, he has proved to be a solid shutdown man at the NHL level and quite frankly if you can get or retain those guys at a reasonable price you jump on it.
That is the single biggest reason Howson has decided to get a bit aggressive here with Hejda and rightfully so.

Couple that with the fact he hasn't missed a beat when paired with Rusty Klesla, who similarly has upped his game, and I think Howson feels comfortable having these two as his shutdown pair over the next couple of seasons.

Hejda made 1 million this season. I would expect his game to want something in the 3 year 6 mil range with I think would certainly be reasonable.

Assuming Hejda gets signed here is what the defense is beginning to look like next season:

Klesla (1.65) Hejda (2)
Russell (575k) Tollefsen (750k)

That would tie up 4.975 million in the bottom 4 defensemen and give Howson plenty of flexibility to bring in that #1 mobile defensemen (Redden, Campbell, etc) this defense desperately needs and perhaps another 3 mil a year type guy.

Actually I wouldn't even count on Tollefsen being a part of that group. Remember he was rumored to be part of that package in an attempt to land Brad Richards -- so he could be dealt in the offseason.

Some people may ask "what about Hainsey?". Well while Howson appears to have identified his "shutdown" guys in Klesla and Hejda I don't think he's even close to feeling comfortable with what he's offensively on the bluline.

Quite frankly this team cannot afford the status quo in terms of offensive output from his blueline. It desperately needs a couple of d-man who are more gifted offensively than Hainsey. This team is dead last in goals for -- remember that a lot of offense is generated from the defense, especially on the powerplay. Hainsey has been our #1 guy on the PP and its ranked 26th in the league. Not good enough.

Hainsey has played well this season but unless he's willing to take something in that 2.5 million a year range this team will go in another direction. In fact, I think they are going in another direction regardless.
Tarnstrom is a guy who could get a contract off from Howson but I think that will depend a lot on what happens with Tollefsen and how much Tarnstrom would be willing to take and if he would want to be a bottom pairing type guy. I certainly don't see Howson giving him the 2 mil he makes this season.

Also in other news, be sure to check out this article about Jason Chimera on


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