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Sunday, May 4, 2008

The eliminated

Two of the four second round series are now over. Montreal and Colorado have been elminated. Lets take a quick look to see if there are any players of interest to the Jackets from both of these teams.

First thing is first though. With Philadelphia knocking off Montreal in 5 games the Colorado 1st round pick the Jackets obtained for Adam Foote moves up a spot to #19.

So currently the Jackets have the following picks which to work with in this June's NHL Entry draft:

1st - 6th, 19th
2nd - 36th
3rd - 66th
4th - 96th
5th - 126th, 134th
6th - 156th
7th - 186th

So 9 picks total.

Okay - onto Montreal and Colorado.

Montreal

Montreal really exceeding expectations this year. They finished tops in the Eastern Conference with 104 points and had count em, 7 players with 50 or more points (compare that to the Jackets with 2).

Unfortunately their season ended a little sooner than they'd hoped for as they went out in round 2 of the playoffs but considering they didn't even make the playoffs last season this year can only be judged a success.

So do the Canadiens have any pieces that may attract the Jackets this offseason? Montreal has 16 players locked up for next season at 32 mil. They have a few UFAs in Byran Smolinksi, Michael Ryder, Mark Streit & Patrick Brisebois and a few RFAs with the key one being Andrei Kostistyn. They should have money to keep the players they want.

Don't look for the Canadiens to shake things up much after such a successful year but as every team has in the salary cap era - there will be some player movement. Lets take a look at some of the players:

Mark Streit - he is a 30 year old defensemen UFA to be who is more of a power play specialist. He racked up 62 points in 81 games and even spent some time at the forward position. Its no secret the Jackets need some offensive help on the blueline and for that reason I could see Howson and the Jackets being interested but I think they are looking for more all around defensemen that can contribute in all 3 zones. Streit reminds me of a Bryan Berard type player - the kind of player that would drive Hitch crazy.

Michael Ryder - a 28 year old right wing UFA to be who has twice hit the 30 goal mark in 4 NHL campaigns. Unfortunately for him he had a terrible year this year for the Canadiens potting only 14g and 17a in 70 games. He was also a healthy scratch at times throughout the year. Still though the 28 year old is certain to find plenty of offers waiting for him on July 1st because many will believe, as do I, that he had an off year but the question is how much will he want? He could be the bargain of the summer.

I've got to think Howson would have an interest in Ryder as we certainly could use a type 6 right winger and I think he would work well under Hitch with his solid north/south game with a scoring touch. I've got to believe he's on the Jackets radar but he needs a playmaker so the middle of the ice must be addressed first.

Byran Smolinski - the 36 year old veteran center UFA to be from Toledo OH put in a workman like campaign for the Canadiens as a bottom 6 center collecting 8g, 17a in 64gp. The 25 points were his lowest point total of his NHL career.

Smoke is nearing the end of his NHL career, he'll likely get picked up by a team looking for some depth but I can't see the Jackets interested as they need top 6 players not bottom 6th depth.

Sergei Kostitsyn - a 23 year old left wing who is a RFA. Kostitsyn really came into his own this season scoring 26g, 27a for 53 points. He has game breaking potential offensively but is still rounding out his play in all 3 zones. He's a guy I can't see the Canadiens parting with but with this day in age where RFAs are wanting to get paid like UFAs and offer sheets you never can tell. He made 600k last year so will be looking for a hefty raise.

I doubt Howson would be interested in Kostitsyn as if he were to pursue RFAs or get into the offer sheet business (which I hope he stays out of) then he'll most certainly target a centermen or top 2 defensemen.

Colorado

A team many Jacket players are very familiar with after the "Foote-gate" situation. Unlike the Jackets, Colorado went for it at the deadline adding instead of subtracting but their window is closing. Guys like Forsbert, Foote and Salei were added. In Foote's case of course the Jackets got a 1st round pick in the exchange. The Avs made it to round 2 before getting swept by the Red Wings.

The Avalanche have 13 players signed for 27 million. They have 11 Unrestricted Free Agents and 4 key Restricted Free Agents.

The Avalanche and some of their players have a lot decisions to make. First and foremost is will long term Av 39 year old Joe Sakic call it a career or come back for one more kick at the can? Will oft-injured Peter Forsberg, who IMO is more of a distraction at this point in his career, finally bow out? Then of course are their other UFAs to be - will Foote get re-signed? What about Brunette, Hlinka, Parker, Saure, Theodore, Finger and Liles -- all UFAs this summer.

Do the Avalanche still try to rekindle old champship flames or really start turning the team over to guys like Paul Statsny, Ryan Smyth, Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos with guys like Hannan, Clark, Leopold an defense.

Certainly they will resign some of their UFAs but which ones? I don't see them letting their RFAs go besides maybe Svatos.

Lets take a look at some of the more intriguing Avs players that are expected to hit the market.

John Michael Liles - a 27 year old UFA to be defensemen. Liles had his worst season as an NHL pro notching 32 points. He struggled a bit in the first half but really turned it up in the second. He is just now approaching his prime and is very strong offensively and can hold his own defensively. He will hotly pursued should he hit the market as these kinds of players are hard to find.

I think Liles is right at the top, or near the top, of Howson's shopping list this summer. While a guy like Brian Campbell may be the best of the bunch Liles is certainly in the top 3 or 4 of defensemen that could be available this summer. He could really help the Jackets and their anemic powerplay and transition game but there will be a lot of competition for his services this summer. I exepct him to get in that 5 mil per year range - overpayment yes but that's how its done in UFA.

Adam Foote - still awake right?

Joe Sakic - a 38 year old center who is a hall of fame shoe-in. Lots of teams would covet him as he's still got a lot left in the tank but there are really only two options for Sakic, retire or re-sign for another year. The Avalanche would love him back so its really up to him.

Wojtek Wolski - this 22 year old RFA right wing wins the top prize for most interesting first name! Seriously though this kid is the real deal. If offer sheets start flying around like Ironman then certainly teams will be intersted in this guy. In his two full seasons as a pro Wolski put up 50 and then 48 points. He's got excellent offensive abilities although can tend to be a perimeter player. The Avalanche would be nuts not to lock this guy down long term which I think they will.

I'm sure Howson likes Wolski but unfortunately he plays the position that we are deepest in and that's left wing. Although lets not kid ourselves that the Jackets would make room for him if they somehow landed him. Still as I've stated earlier if we are going to throw offer sheets around or make trades then we must address our major needs first and that's down the middle and puck movers on d.

Jeff Finger - a 28 year old defensemen who finally stuck after alot of years in minor league systems. He made it count as well notching 19 points and going a +19 which just happened to coincide with his UFA year. Finger is a top 6 guy that a lot of team may be interested in. He's not super physical and isn't going to put up mountains of points but he was an effective player this year.

I doubt Howson makes a play for Finger. Not when he's got a Finger clone in Aaron Rome whom I think compares favorably to the type of player Finger is. He needs high first pair guys as we have 2nd and 3rd pair players already in the fold.

Peter Forsberg - a 34 year old franchise player who due to his style of game just can't stay healthy at this stage of his career. He's more of a distraction now than a help b/c of his unknown status game in and game out. Still he's got enough talent to keep teams interested. Columbus won't be one of them and he isn't intersted in Columbus as it was said Howson checked on his status during the year and was basically told as such.

Andrew Brunette - a 34 year old left wing who all he does his put up points and stay healthy year in and year out. Brunette can score goals and set up plays and he's great around the net. He's a "heavy" type player as Hitch would say.

He's a left wing but he only made 1.6 last year and if we need to add top 6 wingers I think Brunette would be a solid addition both for his pro North American all around game and price tag. Just move Modin to the right with Nash permanenty. I think Howson has other guys like Malone further up his list but he'll be an option I bet.

Jose Theodore - the on again off again 31 year old UFA goaltender to be. Should Howson make the collosal error of allowing Leclaire to walk via an offer sheet or trade him then Columbus would find themselves in the market for a goaltender. There aren't many on the market this summer but Theodore would be one of them. Don't count on this scenario playing out as Leclaire and Norrena will be the duo again next year.

There you have it. Out of the two teams I think the most likely targets are guys John Michael Liles and Andrew Burnetts from the Avalanche. Michael Ryder could be another player on Howson's shopping list as well. I don't see many trade opportunties from either team but you never know if the Avs can't get something down with a guy like Wolski what could happen.

-LTL

3 comments:

Neil said...

I'm passing on all of them.

Shaggy said...

It makes absolutely no sense at all, but I'd love to see Smolinski join the Jackets, if only to sway some of my fellow Toledoans from Red to Blue.

Still, there's nothing in that whole batch that tickles my fancy.

Sean said...

There's not much here that gets me excited either, but I really appreciate the depth in your posts. Keep info like this coming, especially about Eastern Conference teams that I don't read much about at all.