directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Monday, June 30, 2008

Buckle up...this could get bumpy

Well its finally here Jacket fans. Free Agency. The time for overpayment and renewed hopes.

The difference between this year and last - the Jackets should actually be players with close to 15 million to spend.

The question is will they be able to get players?

The competition will be fierce with the likes of Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Atlanta, New Jersey, NY Rangers and Montreal expected to be major players. Boston, NY Islanders, Minnesotra, Ottawa and Carolina figure to be active as well.

This is Scott Howson's day to make his mark. He's had a full season to evaluate this team, trade aging vets, let bad contracts expire (or in Duvie Westcott's case actually buy out a contract) and lay down a new organizational foundation.

The pressure is most certainly on.

Up to this point Howson has made mostly minor moves building depth, especially defensively, selling off veterans via trade who no longer fit the long term plans of this organization and running two drafts.

To this day his boldest moves have been re-signing Jan Hejda to a 3 year deal and trading the 1st he acquired for Adam Foote for RJ Umberger.

If the Jackets want to make the playoffs he will need to be bolder than that.

This team doesn't need to blow the majority of their free agent dollars on guys like Campbell or Hossa - although he couldn't use those two? Unfortunately this team needs much more than just one All Star. What they need are solid NHL bodies in or approaching their prime who can fit the style of team Howson and Hitch are building.

A couple of defenders - preferably of the puck moving variets, a center and perhaps a winger. That's the wish list.

Sure it would be nice if Howson had another year to build but that ship sailed with MacLean. While he certainly doesn't have to sell the farm for now he must acquire some solid NHL talent for Hitch to work with.

...and although this UFA class lacks top end talent it does have a pretty solid group of NHL talent that can help us.

This team must make the playoffs next season or Nationwide Arena could be renamed Nationdied Arena (a.k.a "The Morgue").

The Dispatch gave us some names today to keep a look out for. At the top of that list will be Brendan Morrison and Wade Redden. If Howson can land one of these two (or both) early in free agency then this thing could snowball. If he misses out then it could be a very long day for Jacket fans.

This team is due for some breaks. They have the money. They have the youth, the facilities the management and coaching. I don't care what anyone says - Columbus is a great city especially for players with families which a lot of UFAs have - as a military brat who has lived just about everywhere I know this to be true. Now they just to sell some solid NHLers on this market and the potential of this team to fill the roster gaps while the future bakes.

Honestly I really want this guy to succeed tomorrow because well, I like him. I like the way he's building the team thus far and I think he's good for this market. He's certainly got his work cut out for him.

So buckle up Jacket fans as this could be a bumpy ride.

I'll be "Live Free Agent Blogging" most of the day tomorrow.


Tracking free agency

For those looking to keep up on today's events here are some helpfull links: free agent tracker free agent tracker Western Conference Team Tracker free agent tracker free agent tracker

The Toronto Fan 590 Free Agency Radio Special from noon to 4 p.m.


Round up

I'll use this post to update throughout this day with this and that.

First up has a good write up on the Jackets. I like this quote from Nasher:

“This is the first summer since I’ve been around that we’ve some room to make some moves,” the 24-year-old Nash told The Columbus Dispatch. “It’s not up to me to decide who we pick up, but it’s no secret we’re all pretty excited to see who we get.”

No doubt Howson needs to get this dude a supporting cast. Check it out the rest of the article here.

Also according to Bob MacKenzie Dan Boyle is indeed being shopped. I took this quote from

Bob mentioned even though the Tampa management team has dismissed the Dan Boyle trade rumors, he is being shopped and remember, Boyle has a NTC. Bob then wondered what will Tampa do on the defensive end.

I have to agree with Bob here. Tampa may be able to score 5 goals a game but how do they intend on keeping them out of their own net?

Regardless if Boyle is being shopped he's another guy I'd hope is on Howson's radar. Boyle is 31 and signed for 5 more years at 6.67 mil cap hit. Boyle had a fluke injury last season when a skate slit his wrist in the locker room. He still managed 21 points in 37 games and had 63 and 53 the previous two seasons. He does have a NTC.

A friend of mine made a good point -- Boyle is from Ottawa and Ottawa is in the market for a puck moving d-men. If Boyle was going to wavie his NTC keep your eye on them.

Howson brings me Pitkanen and I'm a happy camper today!

Puck-rakers just listed some of the targets the Jackets are going after:

I've been told that the Blue Jackets will be in hot pursuit of "four or five" players as of 12:00:01 Tuesday. First is the phone calls, then out go the faxes with offers. My guess -- Redden, Morrison, Brooks Orpik, Kristian Huselius, Radim Vrbata. Maybe Niklas Hagman. Maybe Mike Commodore. Wait, that's seven.

Now there is the juice alot of us have been looking for. If I had to rank them this would be my guess in terms of the Jackets priority:

1. Redden
2. Morrison
3. Commodore then Orpik
4. Huselius then Vrbata then Hagman

Redden is the obvious one of the bunch but if the Jackets really want him they are going to have to overpay BIG time. I'm talking 5 years minimum 30 mil to even get in the ballpark.

Morrison has been speculated to the Jackets just about everywhere. They may have to overpay but Morrison is the best that's out there in terms of center and I think they have a good sell in terms of where he'll fit in the lineup and who his linemates will be -- two words: Rick Nash. Can't loose out on this guy.

I'm not big on getting another shutdown d-men unless there are plans to ship out a couple of our existing guys. That said if the Jackets are intent on bringing one of these guys in I give Commodore the edge because he brings a little more offense, a little more size and he'll fight much more often than Orpik.

Then the lower priority will be addressing the top 6 wing. I think the Jackets like Huselius skill with the puck but to me he's soft and streaky. I've been hearing his name more and more as a target for the Jacketa so I think he's first on their list -- he certainly doesn't strike me as a Hitch-type player but no denying he's got skill. He scored 66, 77 and 47 points the past 3 years. He is a legit top 6 guy who is just 29. He should be able to help.

Vrbata and Hagman are good targets as well. Less skill than a Huselius but more of a complete game. Vrbata is also a legit top 6 guy who is just 27 and coming off a 56 point season with Phoenix. He scored 41 and 39 the two years prior. Hagman is a 28 year old winger but has really had just one good year last season when he notched 27 goals. His motor never stops however.

All in all though its hard to argue with anyone on that list although, as mentioned, I'd personally like to see more puck moving skill brought in on the blueline.

Wild guess:

Redden - 5 years 32.5 mil (6.5 avg)
Morrison - 3 years 9 mil (3 avg)
Commodore - 4 years 14 mil (3.5 avg)
Huselius - 4 years 12 mil (3 avg)

Total: 16 mil

Nash Morrison Modin
Zherdev Umberger Huselius
Chimera Brassard Voracek
Boll Malhotra Murray

Redden Klesla
Hejda Commodore


That lineup is certainly an overall upgrade in just about every way possible. Now of course Howson has to land some of these guys come noon tomorrow.

I hadn't visited this site in a long while but if your wanting to kill some time check out this site about NHL logos. There are a lots and lots of Blue Jackets posts about their logos, unis and history. Once again it reminds me of how sweet our new jerseys and logos are -- if Howson can match the upgrade on our jerseys from last year in terms of players this year then we are in for a great season. Check it out here.

New Cannon Fodder up on Its a good listen - check it out here.

A poster over on HF actually saw Hitch board a plane today. Could he perhaps be traveling to talk with a potential UFA target at noon sharp tommorrow? Stay tuned!

Some great news for a former Jacket. Jody Shelley has re-signed with the San Jose Sharks to a two-year contract. A sincere congrats to one of the good "tough" guys in the NHL.

More to come.


*RADIO ALERT* Rimer on 1460 All Week Starting June 30, 4-7 pm!

Update: *BUMP* I actually had the wrong week - Rimer starts this week on 1460.

I heard from a little birdy that Jeff Rimer is on 1460's The Big Show all week starting today.

The The Big Show can be heard from 4 - 7 every weekday afternoon.

All CBJ fans are encouraged to call in or email at any time over the next 5 days to talk some hockey.

Call: 614.821.1460


So if your stuck at work, listening from home or driving pick up a phone or email in and lets talk some CBJ hockey leading up to free agency on Tuesday!


Crazy night

Not sure if I'm the only one out there but who else couldn't drag themselves away from the computer last night? Its seemed like one deal after another. To recap:

* First we found out indeed Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts had signed with the Lightning

* Second my Liles hopes were crushed when he re-signed with the Avalanche for a very favorable 4 year 4 mil per deal

* Third we had the final conclusion in "Foote-gate" when he indeed took a pay cut to sign with his beloved Avalance and in return the Jackets get a 4th round pick. Puck-rakers, like many of us, couldn't resist the temptation at one last shot across 'The Captain's' bow here.

* Fourth the Lightning continue their boldness this offseason in trading for the rights to Brian Rolston. So far I have not seen a confirmation of whether or not Roslton has been signed. The last I saw was that at this point he was waiting until July 1st -- of course where have we heard that one before?

* Finally the weirdest and most unexpected move of the night came when the Edmonton Oilers shipped Jaret Stoll and Mike Greene for the LA Kings for defensemen Lubomir Visnovski. I still really don't get that trade from either side (except for the obvious salary dump by LA) but what that immediately told me is that Joni Pitkanen will be dealt and I hope to gawd that Howson makes a play for this guy.

Crazy night indeed.

I'm sure I echo a lot of Jacket fans when I say -- damn it, where are our moves?

I think this team could desperately use another trade before Free Agency starts. I think Howson may be underrating how far down this organization is on the pecking chart in terms of NHL destinations.

Only team to never make the playoffs. Worst average record in the entire NHL they entered the league. Highest average draft pick.


Yes we took some much needed steps last year under the direction of Hitch/Howson. That should most definitely help the perception of this franchise but I just think this team could use
another deal to really help boost its chances of landing the guys they want on July 1st.

We know we've got the money to spend but we need some dance partners.

I'm sure Howson wants to keep as many dollars available for free agents as possible and then if he doesn't get the holes filled there look to trades and *gulp* offer sheets. To me if a trade is there now I think you pull the trigger as there will be other teams who miss out on guys and then before you know it your in another bidding war.

Just about 24 hours to go to UFA kicks off! I would expect more wheeling and dealing today.

Discuss - are you feeling optimistic, pesimistic or neutral in terms of free agent pickups? Do ou think Howson should hold off on trades prior to free agency?


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pitkanen available

The Edmonton Oilers have just acquired Lubomir Visnovsky from the LA Kings for Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll.

With Visnovsky now in the fold the Oilers have the following cap hits in terms of offensive d-men next season:

Visnovsky - 7 mil
Souray - 6.25 mil
Gilbert - 3.5

That's 15.75 million committed to 3 d-men...and here's the part that should interest Jackets fans -- that is without getting Joni Pitkanen signed.

This move clearly means that Edmonton has every intention of dealing Pitkanen. They certainly aren't going to have the money or desire now with Visnovsky in the fold to re-sign Pitkanen.

In fact with Visnovsky and without Stoll or Greene the Oilers currently have 50.4 million committed to 18 players. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room to flush out the roster. Certainly not enough room to give Pitkanen the 5 mil a year he most certainly wants.

Its no secret the Jackets need puck movers. We know Howson has a relationship with Oil GM Kevin Lowe. It wouldn't shock me at all if he weren't on the phone this very minute trying to work a deal for the rights to Pitkanen.

I've discussed Pitkanen in this space before. He's a 23 year old 6'3" 214 lb puck moving d-man.'s take on him:

Has tremendous size and strength for the blueline position. Oozes offensive potential and displays plenty of grit, toughness and character.

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.

He didn't have the best of years last season only notching 26 points in 63 games but he does already have 3 season with 40+ points on the blueline. He's also played for Hitch in Philly.

If we are going to overpay this is the kind of guy I roll the dice on. I have absolutely no idea if we have the assets to acquire him but reading some reaction from Oil fans they all seem to think Pitkanen is gone and that they'll want cheap gritty players in return. Tollefsen/Fritsche/Brule may look a little more attractive to them right about now.

With a lack of puck moving d-men on the market - especially with Liles now off the board - this guy is a juicy trade target and if a deal can be swung before July 1st and it couldn't do anything but help the perception of Columbus as a UFA destination.

This is a guy I could see building a defense around and would fit great with our young core.

Keep you eye on Chicago though. I could see them making a big play for Pitkanen as well. Wouldn't that just be another blow to the gut.


Liles re-signs with Colorado; Foote too

Well scratch another name off the UFA list. John-Michael Liles has just re-signed with the Colorado Avalanche according to TSN.

Sources tell TSN that Liles and the Colorado Avalanche have agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth an average of slightly more than $4 million per year.

I think that's a good signing by the Avalanche as Liles most certainly would have gotten more than that on the UFA market.

This one stings for me alot more than Malone did as now there is one less option out of an already limited pool of offensive defensemen for the Jackets to target. The Jackets could have desperately used Liles and to me he was my favorite for Howson to go after out of this year's blueline UFA crop.

Not sure if I'm the only one but my excitement for July 1st is starting to turn more to a worry -- will Howson be able to land any impact guys? Stiffed by Malone....Liles off the market. Who is going to be left by July 1st?

Update: Foote has also reportedly re-signed with Colorado at 2 years 6 million. The Jackets not only get a 4th round pick out of the deal but its also very clear he took a home town discount. Remember he wouldn't sign a two year 7 million deal with the Jackets. Link from TSN.


Sportsnet: Malone close to signing with Tampa

This from Sportsnet:

A day after trading for their rights, The Tampa Bay Lightning are close to signing Ryan Malone to a long-term year deal that will exceed $30 million and Gary Roberts to a one-year year deal that has the potential to reach $2 million, Sportsnet has learned.

So that is either going to be a 5 year deal at 6 mil per or a 6 to 7 year deal at 5ish per. Either way thank you Tampa.

One - where is all this bull about "wanting to test the market" and this "don't want to trade a teammate" BS? I think its pretty obvious if he signs this deal the guy had no intention of giving Columbus a fair shake.

Two - we will no longer be overpaying for a competitive 27 goal scorer before allocating dollars to bigger areas of need including another center and massive upgrades on defense.

Three - I hope he's signed soon because I'm really tired with talking about this dude.

I like Malone but damn...I just think we can do better with that kind of pay out.

Update: According to TSN Malone has indeed signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 7 years - no confirmation yet on the amount but if its 30 million as speculated then it will be on average 5 mil per season.

7 years? I'm sorry but that is absolutely rediculous. I'm sooo glad Howson didn't get a chance to make that kind of mistake - not that he would have. Can't wait to hear the amount.

Update: Check this out -- Dan Boyle is now rumored to be shopped according to Sportsnet:

FOUR months after the Lightning signed Dan Boyle to a six- year contract extension worth $6.67 million per that includes a full no-trade clause through 2011-12, guess what, Tampa Bay's new ownership is somehow spreading the word that the defenseman is available in a trade.

Not sure how Tampa could convince Boyle to waive his NTC but now he is a guy I think the Jackets could desperately use and would add much needed pop from the blue-line. We'll keep an eye on this story.

Update: According to the Tampa Bay beat its not quite done yet:

Someone who should know, who asked not to be identified because he did not have authorization to speak, said the numbers are in the ballpark. Still sounds like there's a ways to go, and anything could happen, but it seems as if the Lightning might have things moving in the right direction.

So for those still holding out hope Malone... to quote Dumb and Dumber... I"m saying there's a chance...

Update: According to TSN its a done deal. Malone to the Lightning for 7 years at 31.5 million. He'll earn 7 and 8 million in the first two years of the deal. It sure didn't hurt that the Lightning hired Malone's dad as their head pro scout last week.

Discuss - are you dissapointed we missed out on Malone?


Morrison on Columbus UFA Radar

UFA speculation is really starting to pick up steam now. The latest Columbus UFA rumor is that the CBJ brass are very much interested in Vancouver center Brendan Morrison. From the National Post:

The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to make a play Tuesday for unrestricted free agent centre Brendan Morrison, The Vancouver Province has learned.

Although they acquired R.J. Umberger at the NHL entry draft, the Blue Jackets see Morrison as a better playmaking fit to work with big winger Rick Nash and also balance out their top two lines. That projection, coupled with the Vancouver Canucks not offering term or money in an extension, means Morrison will likely end his Canucks' career with 393 points in 543 games - unless there is a change in franchise focus.

Morrison earned US$3.2-million last season, but a March 26 knee injury ended his season and surgery was expected to affect his value on the open market. Morrison has had three surgeries (knee, sports hernia, hip) in the last two years, but that has not scared off the Jackets or other expected suitors.

The Jackets are rumoured to be offering a three-year deal at about US$8-million and have only US$25-million committed to 2008-09 salaries under the new US$56.7-million cap ceiling.

Would be very hard to argue with a Morrison acquisition at 3 years for 8 million. That would only be 2.6 mil per.

Morrison at age 32 certainly isn't the #1 center option we would all live to add *but* those just aren't avaiable. What Morrison is is a good second line guy who can run the point on the PP, PK, has decent wheels and can play make and score.

Morrison would not come without question marks. Of course the obvious is the injury history. Last year Morrison missed 38 games with a wrist injury and then the final 4 games the year with a torn ACL. He's also had those 3 surguries as the article mentions. Ouch.

Is his body giving out? A valid question.

What's interesting is that Puck-rakers has reported the following about Morrison's injury history:

Doctors have sent an email to select clubs informing them that Morrison will be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

With an obvious gaping hole still apparent up the middle it makes complete sense that the Jackets would target him in free agency. No he's not the Marleau or Vermette everyone would like...he's not a savior....but he's a very competent NHLer who could really help solidfy the middle of the ice for the Jackets. He certainly has his flaws but he's competitive, still has some good years left in the tank assuming he can stay healthy and wouldn't break the bank.

There is no doubt the Jackets will have to do the 'center by committee' thing again but by adding Morrison gives the team a lot more options down the middle. Competing for the top 2 spots would be RJ Umberger, Brendan Morrison and Derick Brassard. Not great but certainly not nearly as bad as it was last year when it was Fedorov-Peca-Novonty-Malhotra up the middle.
If Brassard comes into camp and just plays lights out you have a guy like Umberger who is very versitile and could slide to wing or someone slides to the 3rd line hole.

I also think Morrison may be a better fit for Nash but that's what camps for.

Here is a montage I found of Morrison off of youtube for those unfamiliar with his style of play:

Even with the injury questions marks, given what's available on the market, Morrison is worth the risk and now doubt Howson makes a push.

The Dispatch has a nice spread this morning on the free agenty frenzy and the Jackets are, as expected, to push hard for defensive upgrades. Scott Howson:

"There's going to be significant money spent on the blue line," Howson said. "That's our biggest issue right now."

Now that means puck-moving d-men right? I mean last I checked our defense was horrible about moving the puck out of our own zone and even worse generating chances at even strength and on the PP. That's a given right?

Not so fast according to the Dispatch beats:

The Blue Jackets also want a big, nasty, shut-down defenseman who will make them harder to play against. Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik and Ottawa's Mike Commodore would fit the bill.

Look I like Orpik and Commodore but don't we have plenty of shutdown d-men already in the lineup or verge of the lineup with the likes of Hejda, Klesla, Rome, Tollefsen and Methot?

What this team needs is a major shot of skill on the blueline. The only real offensive oriented guy assuming Hainsey is history is Kris Russell and I don't think one addition in that area is enough.

Now if come July 1st or after and we hear the news that the Jackets have signed Orpik or Commodore then perhaps that is just one step. You can never have enough good defensemen and that could also make a one or two existing d-men - say a Klelsa or Tollefsen for instance - expendible.

UFA only 2 days away!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Malone's rights to the Lightning and more

Well I guess we'll find out pretty quickly if Ryan Malone was being serious about testing the free agent market or just using it as an excuse to avoid Columbus - from the Tampa Bay Lightning's web site:

The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired the rights to left wings Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts from Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2009, owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie announced.

“We said earlier this week we would be aggressive in our pursuit of free agents in order to win and compete,” Koules said. “This trade today doesn’t guarantee anything, but we believe it gives us a leg up in our attempt to sign these two impact players.”

The new owners certainly don't appear to be screwing around but with only 3 days until free agency begins I would be shocked if Malone signs.

According to TSN its a 4th round pick going the other way and if Malone were to sign that pick becomes a 3rd rounder.

Its going to be a real battle to land the top guys come July 1st and my confidence in the Jackets chances to land a big fish dwindles by the day especially with the cap raising by 6 million.

Not sure who else caught Michael Arace's article this morning about Jackets ownership - if you haven't you can read it here.

Decent read but I really have to question the timing of it. Aren't we trying to sell Columbus to potential free agents right about now? Couldn't ownership questions and speculation have wait until after July 1st -- I mean its waited this long?

The last thing Columbus needs at this point is to send out signals that there is ownership instability issues in their most important offseason ever.

I just thought the timing was really odd.

Finally ole Druval Westcott is being bought out. Westcott was a MacLean favorite and had a really good season back in 2005-2006 which earned him a 3 year contract. He's got two years left on his deal and has battled injuries since that season.

If you recall Westcott's concussion issues started when he came to the aid of Sergei Fedorov after a nasty hit by Jamal Mayers. Westcott went toe to toe standing up for a teammate against a much bigger man and seasoned fighter. Unfortunately Mayers got the best of Westcott in that fight and Duvie left with the first of many forthcoming concussions.

Clearly the Jackets are ready to move in a different direction and Westcott wasn't a part of their future plans. It appears to be a amicable split with no hard feeling on either end. Heck Duvie actually had this to say to Ryan Malone according to Puck-Rakers:

"He was asking me about it, yeah," Westcott said. "I told him it was a great city, a great bunch of guys int he room, great fans and an awesome building. It's a great place to play and raise a family, right? He and his wife just had a little one. And, you know, the way Ryan plays, he'd be a perfect fit in Hitch's system. Hitch likes big, physical wingers who get the puck deep and just wear people down. I think he'd be great there, if that's how it works out. I told him that, too."

That's pretty friggan cool of Duvie to say such things in his position. Speaks a lot towards this man's character.

So another one of Doug MacLean's guys is gone. Westcott joins the likes of Shelley, Foote, Fedorov and Vyborny as prominent Jackets who have moved in the year since Scott Howson has taken over.

More names figure to join that list as this offseason progresses.

Update: Todd Bertuzzi has cleared waivers according to TSN.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Bertuzzi on waivers

Another day another player waived. This time Todd Bertuzzi of the Anaheim Ducks.

If you recall Brian Burke signed Big Bert to a 2 year 8 million dollar deal last season.

Bertuzzi is a 6'4" 245lb left wing who at age 33 had 14g for 40 points in 68 games last year.

This is obviously a cap clearing move for the Ducks so that they can get Corey Perry signed. The Ducks right now have 51 million committed to payroll next season. There were rumors that it would be Mathieu Schneider the Ducks would try to move - that still could happen - but for now its Bertuzzi who will be moving on.

Next and most obvious question - are the Jackets interested?

Bertuzzi hasn't been the same player since he had the incident with Steve Moore back in March of 2004. He's also battled the injury bug frequently the past 2 seasons only appearing in 15 games in 2006 and 68 last season. He's also been inconsistant in his play.

He's a gamble but how many players did we even have score 40 points in our top 6 last year? Only two in Nash and Z.

The Jackets will have to evaluate their chances of landing guys they want in free agency versus what a Bertuzzi could bring to the table for a least a year.

I know if I'm Howson and Hitch I'm watching a shit load of tape on this guy right now from last year. We need a top 6 forward and Bertuzzi at 4 mil for one year really isn't a bad risk to take. Especially considering we wouldn't give up assets to get him or the dollars we'd avoid committing to someone on a longer term.

I'd also want to know what kind of locker room guy he is and how competitive he still is (there is that word again) game in and game out. If he's still got the fire then why not? He's a big body who can score 15 - 20 for you. If we miss the playoffs you sell him at the deadline to the highest bidder.

I'm also not confident we can land all the guys we want in free agency and heck maybe even claiming Bertuzzi could help send a message to potential free agents that this team is serious about contending this season.

I've got to be honest - I'd think long and hard about putting a claim in but would understand why they wouldn't.

If they do claim him they could still take a run at Malone although that would make not landing him a little easier to stomach.

If they don't rest assured its because they think they can do better and the question marks surrounding Bertuzzi were just to big to roll the dice on.

I tell ya what make really make it interesting is if Bertuzzi goes through re-entry waivers then the team that claims would only be on the hook for half his salary for a year.

UPDATE: It looks like the Ducks will buyout Bertuzzi if he clears waivers. With that news I think the Jackets take a pass and if they miss the boat on their UFA top targets perhaps they consider Bert after.

Discuss - any interest in Big Bert out there?


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cap rising a downer for CBJ

According to TSN the NHL's salary cap is expected to rise by 6.4 million to 56.7 million. Last year's cap was 50.3 million.

The salary cap floor will now be set at 40.7 million which was higher than the cap limit coming out of the lockout.


So what does this mean for the CBJ?

Its not good. Not good at all.

Cap max teams like Philly, NYR, Boston and pretty much all of the Canadian teams nowadays - thanks to the rise of the Canadian dollar - all have an extra 6 million to spend. That's good for one prime free agent per team. With such a limited UFA pool to pull from that is a lot more competition for free agents for a Columbus market who finally has some money to burn this offseason but perhaps no one to burn it on.

The Jackets are expected to spend between 48 to 50 million this coming season. That puts them perhaps at the mid point.

Last year, according to, the Jackets were 3rd last in the league in payroll at 39.86 million.

However according to an article published yesterday by the Globe & Mail the Jackets were actually 6th from the bottom spending 42.4 million. The article goes on to question whether some teams in the NHL may actually have a hard time hitting the cap floor this coming season.

I don't expect that to be a problem quite yet especially with revenue sharing where markets the size of Columbus and Nashville get in some cases up to 12 million dollars.

Regardless of which numbers to use, if you look at the playoff teams last season only 3 of the 16 teams that made it spent below the average. The more you spend the more you increase your chances it seems.

By my count the Jackets have about 25 million committed to 14 players. They have two key restricted free agents in Pascal Leclaire and RJ Umberger. Dan Fritsche also could figure in there if not traded. Assuming 7 mil between Leclaire and Umberger that leaves between 16 to 18 million to spend on the market.

Unfortuantely with the cap rising by a whopping 6 million that puts a lot more bidders back on the playing field.

The question at this point is will the Jackets find anyone to spend it on given the competition? Will they become the Edmonton of this offseason....all kinds of money to spend by no one willing to come to Columbus to spend it on?

Keep in mind that Howson isn't just going to throw money at players who don't0 "fit" what they are building. So if Kristian Huselius is all that's left on the market I wouldn't get your hopes up that because we have money to spend we will throw it all at a guy like that just because he's what's available.

The Jackets will never be a cap max team. They just don't have the revenue streams to support it. All is not lost though as, believe it or not, the Stanley Cup Winning Detroit Red Wings were actually only 14th in league spending last year. If you break down their team their key players are all draft picks -- Lidstrom, Datsyuk & Zetterberg. Kronwall, Fillpula and Franzen were also picks. They were complimented with the likes of Osgood, Rafalski and Stuart.

Howson is well aware of our position and status in the NHL in terms of market size and free agent attraction. He knows he has to make smart decisions and any chance the Jackets have at the cup someday will be generated from the "build within" approach. This is why you saw him hold onto that 6th overall pick and in a lot cases, that 2nd round pick. We aren't and never were going to spend our way to glory. Our core is going to have to come from within and then complimented by players who can "fit" that core.

...and that's okay - as long as we start hitting on some picks. The "build within" approach only works if you draft well which was major issue under MacLean. We should start seeing the fruits of the Howson era in that area starting as soon as this season perhaps with a guy like Voracek.

Guys like Brassard, Voracek and Filatov need to be home runs if we every hope to contend. We also need to hit big on some lower picks like Russell and Mason.

Our franchise is definitely at a state now though where we need some complimentary guys to go with Nash, Leclaire, Z and Klesla. Umberger is a start but more is needed.

Howson already had his share of challenges attracting free agents if the cap did not change. Things certainly didn't get any easier for him yesterday.

What will be very interesting with this system is when the Canadian dollar weakens, and it will eventually, what the reaction will be when the cap stops rising at these rates. Right now the players are lovin this while the owners are cringing. Those roles could reverse pretty quickly given the economic climate.


Free Agent Focus

With Free Agency just 4 short days away I thought I'd take a look at whom I think the Jackets will target and rank them in terms of priority with a few short comments under each. I'm also taking into account in these ranking the Jackest realistic chances at landing them -- i.e. everyone would like Joe Sakic but he's not leaving Colorado -- as well as the number of holes the Jackets hope to fill.

I'll seperate each by position.


1. Daymond Langkow
Rumor is that Langkow is already signed by Calgary but they are just waiting until July 1st to announce it due to cap reasons. If he were avaialbe I would have to think the Jackets would be interested given their holes up the middle. Langkow had 65, 77 & 59 points the past 3 seasons. I think if he were to hit the market the Jackets would have a shot.

2. Brendan Morrison
A bit of a risk given his injury plagued season last year but if the Jackets are thinking a short term (say 2 years) top 6 fix up the middle while guys like Brassard and Filatov develop, Morrison could be their guy. With 25, 51, 56 & 60 points in his past 4 seasons if he returns to health he could help. He also plays a Hitchcock type of 2-way n/s game.

3. Michael Peca
The Jackets haven't ruled out bringing this guy back. He had 36 points for the Jackest last season and depending on what they end up with on the market he could be brought back in a 3rd/4th line role. Three other guys I think they would have been interested in are Kris Kelley, Martin Straka and Vinny Prospal. Both Kelley and Prospal have recently been re-signed by their existing clubs. Straka just recently signed overseas to play in the Czech Republic.

4. Mats Sundin

I guess there is the chance the Jackets could shock the hockey world if they convinced big Mats to come to Columbus for a couple of years. This ain't happening though - if Mats does play and does leave Toronto he's going to a bona-fide cup contender. Even at age 37 this guy can still absolutely get it done. I'm still in love with the thought of the Nash-Sundin-Modin line titled the "Smash" line. //dream

Three other guys I think they would have been interested in are Kris Kelley, Martin Straka and Vinny Prospal. Both Kelley and Prospal have recently been re-signed by their existing clubs. Straka just recently signed overseas to play in the Czech Republic.

As you can see there is not much avaiable at the center position this offseason hence the trade for RJ Umberger and why another trade would not be out of the question.


1. Ryan Malone
Is there any worse kept secret in terms of the Jackets man-crush for this guy? There is no doubt the Jackets will make a big push for the 28 year old 6'4" Malone - just how much they are willing to spend is anyone's guess. Also keep in mind that Malone has played center in this league so the Jackets could very well move him there if they reel in the big fish. I think they have a good chance to land him but will have to pay more and perhaps throw in a NTC to seal the deal.

2. Andrew Brunette
If the Jackets strike out on Malone I think there are a big group of wingers they would be okay with. I'll start with Brunette b/c even at age 34 the guy still gets it done. He scored 59, 83 & 63 the past 3 years. He played in every game over those 3 years. He would be a short term fix but could really help our scoring, he creates as good as he scores, is great around the net and positionally responsible. He's a pro and would allow plenty of financial flexibility to address other areas.

3. Brian Rolston
Again another aging (age 35) but effective wing. Like Brunette Rolston is also the consumate pro. He would help us. He can run the point on the PP and has just a nasty point shot -- I think we could use that right? He's scored 59, 64 and 70 points the past 3 years. Again on a short term deal he would come in here and hit the ground running. He's affordable and seemed to have no problem putting up points under a defensive Lemaire system.

4. Cory Stillman
Yet again another aging (age 34) but effective wing. The dude can still play and put up the points though and we need veterans to help us over this playoff hump - Stillman is that kind of player. He's put up 65, 27, 76 and 80 points his past 4 seasons. The reason he is below Rolston and Brunette is b/c he did have that injury plagued year in 2006 where he only played in 43 games. He also isn't the best defensively. The guy is a consistant scorer though and his 65 poitns would have been good for 2nd on the Jackets last year. On a short term deal he would help a bad CBJ offense.

5. Niklas Hagman
At 28 Hagman had a breakout year in Dallas last season. Hagman is a high energy player who put up 27g last season and a career high 41 points. Reminds me more of a Chimera type but plays with more intensity. This guy is a Hitch type player. The question is are his 27 goals the result of playing hard in his contract year - his previous career high was only 17g and 29 points - or will his production take a nose dive once he signs with a new squad?

6. Darcy Tucker
Agitates, plays hard every shift, will drop the mits if need be...also has a decent scoring touch.. Howson has said recently he wants competitive players and he'll let Hitch worry about where to play them. This guy bleeds Hitchcock hockey or "Hitchockey". He certainly fits the "competitve" bill but how much does Darcy have left in the tank at age 33? Word out of Toronto is he didn't play that fierce Tucker style very much last season.

7. Radim Vrbata
Again scoring was a major issue for the Jackets last season - something of which the 27 year old winger did a good job at last year notching 27g for 56 points in Phoenix. His production has steadily climbed the past 4 years from 34, 39, 41 to the 56 metioned last season. He's an interesting case. He can't be ingorned for his production and youth but how would hit fit under Hitch? Does he have the fire to bring it every night? Those are the questions that move him down this list a bit but I think he's got to be on Howson's radar.

8. Michael Ryder
A 28 year old winger who had just a horrendous season in Montreal last year. Still though he's managed 30+ goals in 2 of his past 3 seasons. If Howson wants to go younger and more long term he may look to this Canadian. Ryder isn't much of a playmaker though and there isn't a lot of contact in his game.

9. Markus Naslund
Naslund's a guy that even at 34 I think has plenty left in the tank. He had 55, 60 and 79 points the past 3 seasons. He certainly isn't the game breaker he once was but he can still compliment a lineup. The reason I have him ranked so low is that I doubt he considers Columbus as a destination and I think Howson and co. know this. I think he'll want to go to a more established team and market to have a legit shot at a cup. If at the end of the day he doesn't get any offers he likes and Columbus hasn't landed the players they want there may be a chance of something getting worked out but I think its highly unlikely.

10. Marian Hossa
Probably the most sought after free agent this summer. I'm sorry folks but it just ain't going to happen. The Jackets may kick the tires but ultimately they don't have the luxury to hand out to hand out 8 mil to one high profile winger not named Rick Nash.

There are some other intruiging names out there like Cooke, Fedotenko and Huselius but I don't see them being further up than this 10. Be it age, production, style or roles Columbus would have to really strike out before I see them taking a run at what's left out there from a winger stand point.


1. John-Michael Liles
This 27 year old d-man didn't have the best of offensive seasons last year notching 6g 26a for 32p but he's been a very consistant point producer in his 4 NHL seasons overall with 34, 49, 44 and 32 point seasons. I rank Liles #1 overall for d-man on the market for the Jackets because he's exactly what a very weak puckmoving blueline in this market needs in both skill, age and projected price. From a skill standpoint Liles can run a PP and he's competitve despite not being a big man. He's only 27 and I think the Jackets could afford to take a run at him while still not sacraficing being able to fill other holes.

2. Wade Redden
I think this 31 year old d-men is absolutely on the Jackets radar but the reason he falls under Liles is because of age and projected contract demands. If you can get a 27 year old Liles who has been just as effective over the past 3 season offensively for less money wouldn't you take it? True Liles does not have the size and extensive experience or polish in all the 3 zones that Redden has but Liles has the youth. If you had to offer a 5 year deal to one of them I think I'd go with Liles first.

3. Brian Campbell
The cream of the defensemen free agent crop. Campbell is an offensive dynamo from the blueline. He's exactly what the Jackets need to jumpstart an offensively challenged Columbus blueline. If he's so good then why is he 3rd? One reason and one reason only - cost. I think Campbell will price himself right out of Columbus. Put it this way, to get Campbell here we'd have to overpay -- well if many teams are willing to throw 7 mil a year at Campbell just think what Columbus woudl have to do -- they can't afford to do it and fill their other holes. I know that will PO alot of Columbus fans but that's just the reality of the situation.

4. Michael Roszival
The 29 year old d-man has racked up the points the past 3 seasons notching 30, 40 and 38 last year. He's also finished every one of those years an even or better (he was a +35 in 2006 - WOW). Roszival is another guy that can run a PP and has a good shot from the pont -- another benefit - he shoots right. I actually don't see a big difference in his game from Hainsey other than he's an upgrade over him in certain areas - especially the PP -- and he's got that right handed shot the Jackets desperately need.

5. Mark Streit
A 30 year old PP speciatlist. Think Bryan Berard. Streit opened a lot of eyes in Montreal last year racking up a whopping 62 points in 81 games. However in Berard fashion he was also a -6. Desperate help calls for desperate measures -- if Streit is all that's left of the offensive d-men than the Jackets have to make a play for Streit. He's much better offensively than Hainsey but not as good defensively - although its not quite as far a part as you'd think. He also scored 36 points in 76 games last year and was a -5. IF Streit is brought in I see him in the bottom 6 with Russell in Syracuse and then a guy like Commodore or Orpik starts to make a lot of sense further down this list. Take this as you will but Streit also played some wing in Montreal last season.

6. Ron Hainsey
You all know I'm not fan but in a non biased opinion I really think that if these five players go elsewhere the Jackets will look hard at retaining Hainsey (if he's even still available). I've rehashed Hainsey's strengths and weaknesses to death here to so I won't get into a again but the bottom line is that both parties have a mutual agreement that before Hainsey accepts any offers they'll contact Howson to see if any renewed interest is there.

7. Mike Commodore
A stay at home guy who bring that "competitve" edge to his game. To me he's redundant on this roster but after hearing Howson say that he just wants to bring competitve guys in here and let Hitch figure out where to play them then you have to think Commodore is on their list. He's a 6'5" 228 tower of power back on that blueline. He won't give you much offense according to he's well liked in the locker room and is improving with age. He's also very willing to drop the mits as he had 100, 113 and 138 PIMS that past 3 years. Two years ago he did score 7g, 22a for 29 points though.

8. Brooks Orpik
Similar to Commodore Orpik is a competitive player. The reason I have him below Commodore is that 1. I think Commodore is more competitive and 2. believe it or not Commodore actually has more offensive upside. Orpik is younger at 27. There were rumblings that the Jackets were interested in negotiating rights for both he and Malone. Both Orpik and Commodore wouldn't solve our offensive problems from the blueline but if all those guys are gone Howson and co. may have to focus on at least strengthening our backend with solid NHLers. We would have one helluva a PK! You can also never have to many d-men and they make for nice trade assets.

9. Paul Mara
A 29 year old d-men whose offensive game has really taken a nose dive in New York. I could see him being an under-the-radar Hedja type acquisition for the Jackets if they miss on the guys above. He only had 1g 16a last year but just 2 years prior he put up 15g and 32a for the Coyotes. He's not as great defensively however. He could be a cheap addition with a lot of upside but since he's struggled a bit the past two years he more of a risk thus falls way down the priority list.

10. Dmitri Kalinin
A 27 year old d-men who really struggled with injuries last year in Buffalo only getting in 46 games registering 8 points. He's another one of those under-the-radar types who two seasons ago put up 7g, 22a for 29 points. Really doesn't excel in anything but is decent at everything. Again not a guy I see the Jackets targeting but if they really strike out with their priority guys they could look in his direction.

So there you have it. How many of those names will be Blue Jackets by the start of next season? We'll have to wait until July 1st and beyond to see.

A couple of things to keep in mind.

One is that Howson has already filled a hole with the acquisition of RJ Umberger so one down. That leaves at least 3 holes, maybe 4, to fill either by this crop of free agents, trades or offer sheets. With that many holes and with an internal budget set at (I don't care what Howson or Priest say there is a budget) at between 48 to 50 million the Jackets cannot afford to throw 8 million at just one player. This is a team game and the team needs a competitive lineup from A-Z -- from goaltender out.

Secondly just because a guy may be in his 30s doesn't mean he can't help us. We had two players above 50 points last season. Two! Bringing on proven scorers like Brunette/Rolston/Stillman who all scored over 50 last season would absolutely help this offense. These guys on 2 year deals allow players like Brassard/Voracek/Filatov/Legein time to develop lower in the lineup and fill that scoring gap without jeapordizing our future.

Also stay patient. If Howson doesn't reel his preferred fish in come July 1st all is not completely lost. He still has a couple of months to bring in players.

Discuss - if you could bring in 3 guys from the above list who would it be, how much would you spend and where would they fit in the lineup?


NHL Fan Faceoff needs you!

I just received another email from the NHL Fan Faceoff folks:

As you know, the NHL Fan Face Off Team is planning to send out a survey in the next week on NHL game attendance. Currently we do not have enough game attendees from your favorite NHL team in the panel.

We apologize for the frequency of emails on this subject, but we are asking one last time for your help to recruit fans from your favorite team to the NHL Fan Panel. All they have to do is visit and click on join to see if they qualify to be part of the NHL Fan Panel.

I know I'm comin off as a cheerleader here but these surveys don't take long at all so let your CBJ voice be heard folks!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quick hitter

Here is what Pierre LeBrun of is predicting some of the big name UFAs might land:

Ryan Malone, 28, Pittsburgh Penguins: A rugged two-way winger who scores clutch goals and protects his teammates, I just love this guy. But I suspect a team is going to overpay next week. He's a terrific $3-million player. He may get as much as $5 million on the open market and keep your eye on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Wade Redden, 31, Ottawa Senators: This is a guy I would defintely target if I were an NHL GM. His stock took a bit of a hit last season but I guarantee he will come back strong next season. "He's one of the smartest defencemen in the NHL," one NHL GM told me at the entry draft. Columbus and Carolina will be among the many teams I predict will try and sign him but also keep an eye on San Jose if the Sharks lose Campbell.

Not a lot of surprise there.

Something else also hit me like a ton of bricks this afternoon. With Wellwood getting picked up in Vancouver does that spell the definite end to Brendan Morrison's time as a Canuck?

He may also be a target of the Jackets if he is allowed to hit the market. I 1/2 combo of Umberger/Morrison wouldn't be the sexiest of names up the middle of a lineup but it would certainly give us two capable guys. Then if a guy like Brassard is ready one can shuffle to a wing or 3rd line center.

Morrison also wouldn't break the bank which would leave plenty of left over dough to address other holes.

Something to think about.

Of course we also can't rule out trade possibilities - I'm still drooling af the thought of Umberger/Vermette/Brassard down the middle.

Over the next or two I'll post my rankings from highest to lowest in terms of free agents the Jackets would most like to acquire.


Stat of the day

I know these haven't been as consistant this summer but when I find a good stat I'll break it back out throughout the dawg days.

This year's entry draft marked the 1st time in 5 years the Jackets did not draft a goalie:

2008 - none
2007 - Allend York - 6th rd.
2006 - Steve Mason - 3rd rd.
2005 - Tomas Popperlee - 5th rd.
2004 - Dan LaCosta - 3rd rd.

All in all the Jackets have selected a goalie 6 out of their 9 drafts.


Waiving goodbye

Its certainly that time of year.

The NHL buyout period kicked off June 15th and concludes on the 30th. Now that the draft has concluded teams are starting to make some moves first starting with waivers and then if players aren't claimed and are signed they will be bought out.

List of waivers thus far:

Ray Emery, Marc Denis, Kyle Wellwood, Andrew Raycroft, David Tanabe, Jeff Hamilton, Ben Clymer & Josef Stumpel

With more to come I'm sure.

The only name that sparked any interest to me thus far (well besides seeing Marc Denis' spectacular fall from grace) was Kyle Wellwood. Wellwood is a 25 year old center who notched 21, 42 and 45 points the past three seasons.

Not bad right?

If you listen to Leafs fans though he's overweight, lazy and won't hit a thing on the ice.

Still maybe the Jackets would take a chance given their holes at center? Maybe Hitch could whip him into shape?


According to TSN, the Canucks just claimed him thus since the Jackets were further behind them in the standings they had first crack and obviously declined.

The players hit waivers for a reason I guess.

It wouldn't surprise me to see one Blue Jackets name pop up on that list and that's Duvie Westcott. He's got 2 years left on his deal at 1.85 mil per and unless Howson can unload him in some kind of salary dump/swap I fully expect him to be bought out by the 30th.

Also any dreams of landing one Vincent Lecavalier (however faint they may have been *squish* *squish*) went up in smoke today. It was officially announced that Lecavalier has re-signed with the Tampa Bay lightning to the tune of 77 million over 9 years (or 8.5 per).

Lecavalier is 28 so when that contact expires he'll be 37 which will pretty much make him a Lightning for life.

If I'm handing out long term deals he's certainly one guy I'd pony up the dough for. I'm also sure that deal is top heavy the first 4 to 5 years and then lowers from there.

I like the Lightning's offseason so far. They added Stamkos, signed Prospal to a very cap friendly 4 year deal and then got their franchise player signed for life. I don't really get the Melrose hire but from a player personel standpoint it seems they are moving in the right direction.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tucker available after Leafs buyout

According to TSN the Toronto Maple Leafs will buy out Darcy Tucker:

Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher alerted Tucker of Toronto's intention to buy him out on Tuesday afternoon.

"The decision is always difficult when you are dealing with a good person. We wish him well.". Fletcher told TSN.

"Its a business, Darcy knows that," Tucker's agent Carlos Sosa told TSN.

"Whether this decision by the Maple Leafs is good business or bad business.only time will tell."

"We've been prepared for everything and Darcy and his family are ready to move on," Sosa added.

Tucker has 3 years remaining on his contract and Toronto will be on the hook for two-thirds, or 6 million dollars paid over a six year term. Tucker signed a four-year contract extension with the club back in February of 2007.

Will the Jackets be interested?

Tucker is 33 who notched 18g, 16a for 34 points last year. He also finished a -18 with 100 PIMs. The previous two years he had 43p and 61p respectively. He's played in 74, 56 and 74 games.

Sportsnet's take:

Always comes to play and forechecks well. Provides an energy boost for his team every shift and has a decent set of hands. Is absolutely fearless.

Has suspect skating ability, which has prevented him from becoming an all-star at the NHL level. His agitating qualities can at times hurt his own team.

Career potential
Third line winger.

Let me be the first to say that I love Darcy Tucker. I love the way he plays. I love his character. I love his competitiveness. He makes your team harder to play against.

Unfortunately his game appears to be on the decline. He's suited best as a 3rd line winger at this point in career. A position that we are overflowing with.

I wouldn't completely rule him out though, especially if the Jackets strike out on a guy like Ryan Malone. Tucker is the kind of player that would fit like a glove under Hitch but he isn't the play making center or top 6 wing we desperately need so I don't see him as a priority.

Tucker will find a home and pretty quickly I bet. Teams love to add players like this to their lineup.

If Columbus were interested I think he might be as well. Columbus isn't far from Toronto and depending on what the Jackets do in free agency he may look at his situation here similar to what a guy like Peca did last year -- a chance for him to rejunivate his career.

He was scheduled to make 3 mil each of the next 3 years. Depending on how desperate teams get he may find an offer similar to that. I don't think the Jackets would pony up that kind of dough however.

The Leafs are really making some moves. First the Mayers trade - which now with the Tucker buyout makes more sense. Then the Sundin situation with Montreal granted rights to negotiate. Next up was Wellwood and Raycroft put on waivers. Now the Tucker buyout. With the salary they are moving out they could be players once again on the free agent market.

Discuss - any interest in Tucker out there?


Howson "Filatov worth the risk"

Can't get enough of this guy? Well I've got more for you below:

“We loved Filatov,” Maloney added. “My worry was not now – he wants to play here, he's a good player, he speaks English. My worry is three years from now. When you hear the numbers they're talking about with Malkin, we worry that after three years in the league, if someone like him becomes a star, how are we going to keep him?

“That was a real concern for us. As a franchise, can we afford that versus the alternative – to pay another good player where we don't have that [threat of him leaving]?”

Scott Howson, the Blue Jackets' general manager, who selected Filatov sixth overall, conceded the new Russian league “is a threat for sure. They're going to take players and obviously they're going to put pressure on good Russian players. But we went through a pretty thorough process with Nikita. We tested him many ways and went back and talked to people, and his story has been consistent. He wants to play here.

“It's a leap of faith for us, but we believe in him, we trust him and we think he does honestly want to play here.”

Even at the cost of the sixth overall pick in a deep entry draft, Filatov was worth the risk?

“He was for us,” Howson said.

First thanks to Skraut for pointing this article out.

There are three things that I find very interesting about this artcle.

1. In one breath the GM of the Coyotes says his worry is three years from now about Filatov. Okay - valid point - one I can see. However, the Coyotes drafted a Russian 28th overall in Viktor Tikhonov but he justifies that one by saying that they see him as a "Californian kid playing in Russia". If Tikhonov becomes a star mark my words this kid could also use Russian as leverage come negotiations.

Bottom line in this new CBA be it Canadian, American, Russian or Vietnamese -- if you start putting up the points before your rookie contract expires these kids are going to get paid so GMs need to prepare themselves for that possibility.

2. With the 8th overall pick the Coyotes chose Mikkel Boedker out of Kitchener of the OHL. Here's the interesting part -- Boedker is Danish. With the IIHF transfer agreement terminating for all countries who is to say Boedker couldn't play in Russia or a Swiss league or some other league closer to home...or use it as an advantage?

3. There is no doubt that on the surface that Howson took a bit of a gamble of Filatov - especially given the situation with Russia and of course our own Zherdev. Going into the draft I did not think they'd take him. It almost seems a bit unlike Howson to take the risk.

Everything I hear from Howson and this kid is that he's 100% committed to playing over here. I mean at the end of the day what young Russian star has ever gone back to Russia - Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Zherdev? We've heard the rumblings on Malkin but all indications now point towards him staying in the NHL and signing a ginormous contract with the Penguins.

Howson and the Jackets made the right pick. They had to take what many services called the 2nd best player in the entire draft at 6. Heck Howson and co. had him rated #3 on their own list.

There were 6 top talents in this draft and at 6 the Jackets took the final one. Sure there is some added risk there but that is why he slipped to 6.

I believe Howson when they say they did their homework on this kid....and if he becomes the superstar we all hope he will then pay the kid. Its not like this team is overflowing with superstars at the moment.


Dalpe's in a doozy

This Zac Dalpe situation is shaping up as quite the story to follow.

To recap. Dalpe was projected to be a 1st round pick but slipped to the 2nd round (#48 overall). Ohio State, who is coming off 2 miserable seasons, can desperately use Dalpe's injection of skill into its lineup to help become a contender again.

The problem is that Dalpe has pretty much come out of nowhere this season to become such a high pick. So much so that the OHL's Plymouth Whalers made him a their top choice in their draft.

Now comes the wrinkle that the team that drafted Dalpe, the Carolina Hurricanes, is owned by Peter Karmanos. He also owns the Plymouth Whalers.

This is about the worst case scenario that Ohio State could imagine.

The Dispatch had a blurb about him in this morning's edition:

"Nothing has changed," Dalpe said by phone from his hometown of Paris, Ontario. "I'm 100 percent committed to Ohio State."

Dalpe said he expects to talk to Hurricanes management later this week. Buckeyes coaches met with Dalpe on Saturday in Ottawa, site of the draft.

Ohio State coach John Markell concedes that Dalpe could change his mind at any time, even after entering the Buckeyes' program in September.

"They are testing his character," Markell said. "We knew we had a kid of character and passion and he is displaying that right now."

I don't envy Dalpe's situation at all. On one hand you know the kid wants to honor his commitment to Ohio State. They were the first team to commit to him before his growth spurt that led to all this size and attention to go with his skill.

On the other you know its his dream, as it is most kids playing hockey, to play in the NHL. I'm sure he doesn't want to start off his relationship with the team that drafted him by pissing them off.

If you recall another high profile draft pick by the name of Jack Johnson, who went 2nd overall in 2005 to the Hurricanes, also chose the college route and played with Michigan. Carolina wanted him to turn pro before he was ready and instead of respecting his decision that team dealt him to the Kings in a deal centered around Tim Gleason.

Now grated the Hurricanes were really hurting for defense at the time but its an example of them wanting it done their way.

For Ohio State they can only hope Dalpe sticks to his guns. They can certainly boast some recent success developing NHLers.

Of course they developed RJ Umberger, who was a #16 overall pick back in 2001. He's played in 228 games and has scored 49g 67a for 116p.

They also had Ryan Kesler. Kesler was a #23 overall pick back in 2003. He's scored 39g, 42a for 81 points in 238 games.

David Steckle is another former Buckeye who was also the #30 pick back in 2001. He just recently found his way to the NHL and played in 79g with 5g 7a for 12 points.

Guys like Rod Pelley and Nate Guenin have also seen some time in the NHL recently.

They also have boasted players like Tom Fritsche who was a 2nd round pick back in the 2005 draft who just recently turned pro and spent some time in the AHL last year after his season at OSU concluded.

On the current Buckeye's team they have goaltending standout Joe Palmer who is a 4th round pick for the Blackhawks from the 2006 entry draft. John Albert was a forward who was selected in the 6th round last season by the Atlanta Thrashers.

Then of course this year they have Dalpe as a 2nd round pick and another player by the name of Taylor Stefishen was a 5th round pick this draft by the Nashville Predators.

This could be a make it or break it year for head coach John Markell. A lot of his season and future as OSU's head coach could hang in the balance of Dalpe's decision.

He's got a young team that's paid its dues the last couple of seasons. They could take a step this year as his young players mature and having Zac Dalpe as a part of that certainly could help jump start that process.


Monday, June 23, 2008

What the experts are saying... (updated 6/24)

I'm going to use this post to kind of cobble together what the "experts" are saying about the Jackets draft day moves.

We'll start with and there covereage here.

On Filatov:

Scouting Report: The consensus top European player available for selection in 2008, he was rated second overall by International Scouting Service and first among International skaters in Central Scouting's final rankings... a supremely skilled winger, he excels in important contests and displays loads of tenacity and determination... can also play center but is at his best when flying down his off-wing (left)... produced four goals and nine points in just seven games for Russia at the 2008 WJC in the Czech Republic... will need to add more muscle on his 6-0 frame in order to thrive in North America...

Impact: Filatov is an intriguing player, and he now heads to an interesting situation in Columbus. The Blue Jackets are loaded on the wings, led by Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev and top prospect Jakub Voracek, so there probably isn't a spot on the NHL roster for the time being. However, Filatov is expected to move to North America regardless of the Jackets' situation, and he could wind up in the CHL in 2008-09. Clearly, Columbus decided to go with the best player available, especially after trading their other first rounder in a deal for R.J. Umberger--who is expected to play center full time in Columbus.

Espn's Gare Joyce on the Filatov pick:

Gare Joyce says: This was a team in desperate need of D after the loss of Adam Foote. It might come away with the second-most skilled player in the draft. Does this tip a domino for trades? weights in on Filatov pick:

News: Columbus drafts Nikita Filatov

Views: This was the most intriguing pick of the first round because while Filatov was rated extremely highly by scouts, there is always the question about his accessibility. Without a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Hockey Federation, there have been concerns among teams about drafting players that may not come over to North America in recent seasons, a major risk when it comes to using a first-round pick. That the biggest reason Alex Cherepanov, a top five type, dropped all the way to 17th last season. But Filatov might be more talented, speaks English relatively well and has expressed a desire to play in the NHL as soon as possible. It's still a gamble for the Blue Jackets, but one that seems to have the odds on their side.

TSN on Filatov:

McKenzie: A lot of time you get Russian players and you wonder how they will get acclimatized to North America. This guy speaks English and a little French. He wants to be here. He's already given notice to his Russian team that he's leaving. He has a consistent work ethic and he's a strong team player.

Update: THN on Umberger trade:

What does it give the Columbus Blue Jackets?
In Umberger, the Jackets land a badly-needed forward with the potential to produce points from the center position. He can also play wing if needed, but the club is far deeper there than down the middle. Umberger is also familiar with coach Ken Hitchcock, so expect him to shoulder a heavy burden in Columbus. He may even become the team's first-line center.

What does it give the Philadelphia Flyers?
The Flyers need salary-cap relief so someone needed to go. Umberger is the right player to move at this time, since Philly boasts two quality winger prospects in Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk--who collectively should make the loss of Umberger easier to swallow. With the first-round pick, the Flyers added a need in defenseman Luca Sbisa, plus a third rounder in exchange for a fourth. All told, this move was necessary for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, so he did well from an asset management standpoint.

Update USAToday's Kevin Allen lists the Jackets as one of his top 5 winners from draft weekend:

5. Colombus Blue Jackets: It's not unthinkable that Nikita Filatov could end up the best scorer in this draft, and second round defenseman Cody Goloubef was a first rounder on some lists.

CNNSI's Allan Muir gives the Jackets an honorable mention on his list of "winners" for the 2008 draft:

To Columbus for snatching Nikita Filatov sixth overall, then adding the versatile R.J. Umberger in exchange for the first-rounder they acquired from Colorado in the Adam Foote deal.

What's even more interesting is who he picked as a loser -- Toronto for giving up 2 assets to get defensive defensemen Luke Schenn:

While every other club was loading up on skill in the first round, the Leafs gave up a pair of valuable assets (a second- and third-rounder) to move up two spots in the first to grab shutdown defenseman Luke Schenn. It was a bold move to be sure, and Schenn seems a good bet to be a stabilizing force on the Leafs' blueline for years, but a defensive-defenseman in the top five? That's the sort of talent you're supposed to pick up with those second- and third-rounders. When you get a chance to draft that high, you have to grab a difference-maker.

THN also dogged the Leafs for their draft day moves.

Update: Dobber Hockey on Filatov:

Columbus – They got a steal in Nikita Filatov. It is too bad that he joins a defensive system. However, coaches rarely last five years and by Ken Hitchcock’s fifth year Filatov will be 21 or 22. I don’t think he will make the team this year…but wouldn’t bet against it. He’s a year away at the latest and will have a rookie year similar to what Jaromir Jagr had. Offensively, his potential is as high or higher than Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane. Getting Matt Calvert at 127 could also be a steal, but the smallish forward could be five or six years before getting on your radar.

On Umberger:

Much like Cammalleri, RJ Umberger’s stock is on the rise. He will be a top line forward on Columbus, and his versatility will allow him to play either wing or center with Rick Nash. Umberger is a good scorer and passer. He is big, and can skate. No real holes in his game, he just never really got the opportunity he needed to flourish in Philadelphia. He is a 60-65 point forward for next year, at the minimum. He also played his college hockey in Ohio (at Ohio state), so he will be familiar with the Columbus hockey fans.

I have yet to read anyone say that Nikita was a bad pick for the Jackets which is a good sign. Of course you have the nay sayers who think all prospects do is go bust in Columbus but with career years from Nash, Leclaire and Zherdev last season I think that stigma is slowly starting to fade.. hopefully next season or chances at a top t0 pick fade as well.

I'll have more updates in this post as draft grades and reaction start being released.

On a side note, those damn Predators. They drafted a guy I really really liked in Colin Wilson. I think that dude is going to be a rock in this league for a long long time. If we traded down from 6 I would have loved to get that kid.


6 million for Malone?

Not sure whom else caught Michael Arace's column about Ryan Malone and the Jackets. This is certainly the part that stood out to me the most:

If Malone is Howson's guy -- and I suspect that is the case -- then Malone might be looking at an offer from the Jackets worth something in the range of $6 million annually.

6 million?

Look there is overpaying for a guy you like and then there is boarderline insanity.

I like Ryan Malone, I would like Ryan Malone on the Jackets. Better yet I'd like Ryan Malone on the Jackets riding shotgun with Rick Nash.

...but not for 6 friggan million! Not for a 51 point winger-maybe-center who has great character. How in the heck do you fill all those other holes in the lineup when you pay a Malone that kind of scratch?

Malone isn't going to take over games. He isn't much of a playmaker. His career best in goals is 27 playing next to guys like Crosby and Malkin.

Please don't get me wrong. I want Malone. He'd be a great fit...but not at the expense of filling our other holes and not for 6 million a year.

Put it this way - there are 32 players in the NHL that are slated to make 6 or more million next season:

Ovechkin, Crosby, Richards, Chara, Heatley, Lidstrom, Gomez, Thornton, Vanek, Drury, Iginla, Spezza, Lecavalier, Lundvist, Khabibulin, Niedermeyer, Luongo, Datsyuk, Boyle, Briere, Jovanovski, Phaneuf, Kovalchuk, Timonen, Gaborik, Marleau, Smyth, Pronger, Elias, Havlat, Kariya & Rafaslki.

Does Ryan Malone deserve to be in that group?

For me I'd be willing to go to 5 and would consider that a pretty big overpayment for Malone. If he wants or gets 6 from someone else I say thanks for considering us and wish him luck. I think take my 6 million and spend it elsewhere -- with as many holes as we have we could get two servicable players at 3 mil per.

Here is a good read from in regards to the Blue Jackets titled "The Blue Jackets are on the right track":

Calm down, Blue Jackets fans. The fact that Umberger can play center isn't code for "we've found our No.1 guy."

Umberger will step in on the second-line and the Blue Jackets are hoping his 10 goals in 17 playoff games will translate to more than the 50 regular-season points he tallied in 2007-08.Howson will be actively pursuing a top-line center between now and, well, until he gets his hands on one. But more on that in a little bit, as there's another player the Blue Jackets added to their roster that people seem to be a little upset over.

Some compare Filatov to Nikolai Zherdev, without the drama, and while that's partially true, this 18-year-old appears to have more upside, and Zherdev hasn't come close to his peek yet.

The Blue Jackets made two solid additions to their team this weekend. Umberger, once signed, will make an immediate impact, and when Filatov's ready for the big leagues, he'll add great skill to a team in need of some.

The Blue Jackets kicked off the summer with two quality additions. Keep the faith, Blue Jackets fans; they're not done yet.

Also in the Puck-rakers blog Portzline comments about Brian Campbell and the Jackets interest in the soon to be UFA:

The Sharks did not deny the Jackets permission to speak to Brian Campbell and his representatives prior to the start of the July 1 free agency period. The Jackets did not ask for it.

I've heard conflicting reports on this one. We have what Portzline is reporting here but I've also read that San Jose did not give permission to anyone in the Western Conference.

Giving the lack of puck movers on the Jackets blue line, the dollars they have to spend and Campbell apparent willingness to test the free agent market they have to have some interest right....right?

As Tom Reed metions in his blog this afternoon the Jackets need to spread the wealth. With so many holes to fill can they afford to throw 8 mil a year at Brian Campbell and still address their other needs?

So perhaps the Jackets do have interest -- they'd have to -- but at the same time they are realistic and know what its going to cost to bring him to Columbus. I think they'll definitely kick the tires but connecting the dots here I wouldn't count on Campbell being a Jacket July 1st.

My quesiton is if not Campbell then who are we interested in to fill those blueline holes? As I stated yesterday I expect someone in that UFA defensive pool to be signed and at least one trade to be made.

Check out this article on the Umberger trade. If you weren't that excited about adding this guy it will certianly make you feel better about that trade:

Yet, the loss of R.J. Umberger stings — a lot more than the Flyers are letting on. Umberger was the most versatile forward on the roster. He could play all three positions. He could play on the power play and he could kill penalties. He was adept at taking faceoffs when needed and even could be used in a shootout if necessary.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are thrilled to add him to their roster, and coach Ken Hitchcock has said he wants to see Umberger center Rick Nash.

That’s top-line duty in the Buckeye state.

However, the Flyers found themselves in a real bind. With so much money locked up for next season, it was a foregone conclusion that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign restricted free agents Jeff Carter and Umberger, not to mention defenseman Randy Jones.

Holmgren and the rest of the organizational brass had to decide who was more crucial to the franchise’s future, Carter or Umberger.

Carter is more of a scoring threat, so they went with Carter, but it was much closer than one might think.

The Flyers needed to get something worthwhile for Umberger though, and Holmgren knew he needed to replenish the organizational prospects, especially in goal.

However, the goalie he wanted — a Canadian kid named Chet Pickard — wasn’t going to drop to them at pick No. 27. So knowing he needed to move up to land the goalie, Holmgren used Umberger as his bargaining chip.

Finally I wanted to post these two descriptions of Filatov and Golobouf from


Pos: Left Wing
Shoots: R
Height: 6'
Weight: 165 lbs.
Born: 05/25/1990
From: Moscow, RU
Team: Moscow CSKA-2 (RusDi)

TSN: 5
ISS: 3
RLR: 2
McK: 7
THN: 4
Comparable: Daniel Alfredsson

From TSN: The Russian forward is a dynamic goal-scorer whose skill in that area draws comparison to Washington's Alexander Semin, but Filatov gets high marks from most scouts for being more of a complete package, in terms of work ethic, character and consistency. Fluent in English and the son of parents who received some education outside of Russia, the family is perceived as progressive and North America-friendly. In other words, this is a prospect who desperately wants to play in the NHL and immediately make the move to the pro game on this side of the ocean. He has quickness and a deft touch and while the "Russian" factor could cause him to slide a little lower than he's rated – this is the consensus second-best forward available after Stamkos – it's inconceivable to think he could slide as far as countryman Alexei Cherepanov did last year.

From NHL Central Scouting: A leader, has a great attitude, excellent work ethic and tons of talent. He has matured during the season and leads by example. He is an excellent skater who can change pace, even at top speed. Despite his size, he still plays aggressive, taking and giving hits.

Year Team GP G A Pts Pim
2007-2008 Moscow CSKA-2 (Russia III) 34 32 34 66 90


Pos: Defence
Shoots: R
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Born: 11/30/1989
From: Oakville, ON
Team: Wisconsin (WCHA)

TSN: 48
ISS: 33
RLR: 47
McK: 40
THN: 42
Comparable: Josh Gorges

From TSN: A minor hockey teammate of Sam Gagner and John Tavares with the Toronto Marlboros, Goloubef was one of the youngest players in NCAA Division 1 hockey this season. He's a mobile puckhandler who probably didn't get to demonstrate his offensive flair in a college program (Wisconsin) where defence is stressed first and foremost, but should nonetheless be a solid second-round pick.

From NHL Central Scouting: He is compact and he's strong with a wide stance. He's a good, powerful skater. He thinks the game well, has a really good shot and makes that first pass consistently. He is a solid two-way player that is going to play on your power-play.

Year Team GP G A Pts Pim
2007-2008 Wisconsin (WCHA) 36 2 8 10 32

Filatov is compared to Alfredsson here. I've also heard him compared to Datsyuk and unfortunately Zherdev. If he becomes anything close to Alfredsson or Datsyuk I think we'll all be thrilled.