directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Hainsey to test UFA waters, Jackets to pursue Wheeler

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hainsey to test UFA waters, Jackets to pursue Wheeler

A couple of interesting nuggets this morning from the Columbus Dispatch:

The first being that to noone's surprise Ron Hainsey will test the UFA waters on July 1st:

Defenseman Ron Hainsey will test the waters of unrestricted free agency, his agent said.
"We've had very cordial talks with the Blue Jackets," Matt Keator said. "They like Ron. But they want to see what's out there, and that's their prerogative.

"Ron loves it in Columbus, and they've been very fair to him. Scott (Howson) has been great to deal with. But we agreed to go to July 1 and see how it unfolds. We told them we won't sign with anybody after July 1 until we talk to the Blue Jackets first. We made them that promise."
There are only four quality puck-moving defensemen available via free agency -- Brian Campbell, Redden, John-Michael Liles and Hainsey.

I sure wouldn't put Ron Hainsey's name with that group. Those other 3 have done it longer, more consistantly and are quite frankly are better in all 3 zone than Hainsey. Hainsey to me in that second tier with a guy like Rozsival.

I've been over this multiple times in this space so I won't go into overkill here but for the Jackets this is the right decision. I mean 4.5 to 5.5 for Ron Hainsey for an offensive defensemen who with all the PP time in the world could only muster up 32 points good for 37th in the league? No thanks.

He was also a -7 against other team's second lines most of the year and down the stretch he certainly did not do much to warrant that kind of payday scoring 4 points and was a whopping -13 over the last 15 games.

As I've stated before he's come a long way since the Jackets acquired him off waivers from Montral but this team must think bigger. Our transition game and PP were horrendous and Ron Hainsey was a big part of that. Could he be better in a lesser role? Maybe but then again only 7 of his 32 points came at even strength. So with less PP time what would we be getting for 4.5 to 5.5 mil a year?

I appreciate his willingness to stay in this market but you know what....David Vyborny loved Columbus...Jody Shelley loved Columbus...should we have re-signed them to? The bottom line to fans is do you want to win or do you want a losing team with a bunch of players who love Columbus?

Right now the Jackest defense looks as follows:

XXX Klesla
XXX Hejda

*of course Klesla/Hejda could be paried as well

Putting Hainsey in that top 4 at 4.5 to 5.5 will not be good enough to turn this defense into a playoff caliber one, especially in terms of generating offense and that's the goal here.

Also don't rule out a trade to acquire a d-men in addition to signing a big name in UFA. There has been a lot of speculation about the Jackets shipping their 19th overall pick for Pavel Kubina of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Names to keep an eye on include Campbell/Redden/Liles/Rozsival/Kaberle/Kubina/Pitkanen/Whitney

Another very interesting nugget was the fact that the Jackets plan on pursing free agent Blake Wheeler.
If you recall in 2004 the Phoenix Coyotes shocked the NHL in that draft with the selection of Minnesota's Blake Wheeler with the #5 overall selection. At that time it was widely believed Wheeler wouldn't be selected until late in the 1st round but Phoenix obviously liked his size and potential and drafted him as a project.

Hockeysfuture's talent analysis on Wheeler:

Over the last couple seasons, Wheeler has added a lot of size. He’s s filling out, and still growing into his frame. Wheeler is a good skater, has deceptive speed, and has great acceleration when needed, but needs to increase his stamina. He can stickhandle at top speed, but needs to develop more moves, especially power driven moves coming out of the corner. He needs to be a bit more creative on the forecheck, using his body and keeping his legs constantly moving. When he shows spurts of confidence driven play, he can be very effective on forecheck, most notably down low. He needs to continue to improve on creating space and or distance while he’s on the puck. He has the ability to play on special teams.

Wheeler is a 6' 3" 205lb right wing who played 3 years at Minnesota before turning pro this summer. He scored 23, 38 and 35 points over that span. Not bad considering NCAA hockey only plays on average 40+ game a year. He couldn't come to contract terms with Phoenix thus will become an Unrestricted Free Agent. The Coyotes will be compenstated with the 34th pick overall (which unfortunately bumps everyone down a spot after including knocking the Jackets 36th to 37th).

As alluded to in the paper its thought that Minnesota will be the odds on favorite to land Wheeler and I'm sure in addition to the Jackets there will be many more teams interested in signing the 22 year old.

Do the Jackets have a realistic shot?

It all depends on what Wheeler is after. He'll obviously favor his home town Wild for obvious reasons but if that doesn't work out its anyone's guess.

Does he want the brights lights of the big city like New York, LA or Toronto?

Does he want to go where he puts himself in the best position to make the NHL? If that's the case then perhaps the Jackets make some sense as besides Voracek he would immediately vault behind him on the depth chart.

Does he want to go where there is some hockey history? If so then cross Columbus off the list.

What about a young and upcoming team? If so then teams like Columbus, Chicago and LA would make sense. Of course so would have Phoenix.

I personally wouldn't count on the Jackets landing Wheeler. It would be a nice addition...I mean who wouldn't like young a 6'3" 205 lber who already has some key development years under his belt? Unfortunately Columbus is probably pretty far down Wheeler's list but its good to know Howson is interested and you never know because after all the tradition, home towns, young teams and cups -- money typically talks the loudest.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're right, Hainsey's name doesn't belong in that group of d men. I wouldn't even consider him in the same category as Rozival yet either. He will get a big payday and I wish him all the best, I am just glad the jackets are looking to upgrade instead of maintain the status quo.