directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday round up

There are a couple of really good reads over on about the Jackets.

The first one talks alot about Jackets prospects and has some excellent quotes from Scott Howson - some samples:

Howson on Brassard:

"He got his feet wet, but he wasn't strong enough," Howson said. "The injury set him back so we decided to put him back in Syracuse for the rest of the year and he was really good in Syracuse in February, March and April. He had a good playoffs."

"He's another young player that sees the ice real well and he plays a position we're really weak at," Howson said. "He's going make a push to play for us this year."

On Mason:

"I can see him getting NHL games next year, but we want him to play a lot," Howson said. "Whether it's in Columbus or Syracuse, he's going to play a lot. Goalies traditionally take longer so it wouldn't hurt him if he played in Syracuse, but some people are special athletes and I'm not going to say no to anything at this point."

He also talks abot Voracek, Filatov, Legein, Sestito and Dorsett. Very good read that you can find here.

A second article focuses in on Voracek. Again some more juicy quotes from Jackets development coach Tyler Wright:

"He had a good camp last year, but he weighed 181 pounds and was a little bit high in body fat," Tyler Wright, the Blue Jackets' development coach, told "He comes in here this year and he's 202 pounds and he's dropped some body fat. To put on 21 pounds and drop body fat in a year shows he made that commitment."

"I'm really intrigued with this kid," Wright said. "I think he can be a really special player in the League for a long, long time."

Much more from Wright and Voracek here.

Not sure whom else caught this but the Oilers made a big announcement today:

Kevin Lowe, who had served as the club's general manager for eight seasons, was named president of hockey operations, a newly created position within the organization. Lowe then named Steve Tambellini the team's new GM, while Kevin Prendergast, who served as the Oilers' vice president of hockey operations the last nine seasons, was appointed assistant GM.

Normally I wouldn't bat much of an eye at such an announcement but a friend of mine had a good point - one year removed from taking the Jackets GM job out of Edmonton I wonder how Scott Howson feels about this?

Great question.

Perhaps a question the boys at the Dispatch can get answered.

Spector over at Fox Sports takes a look at potential free agents next summer - here are his thoughts on the Jackets:

C Michael Peca, LW Mike York

The stock of these two veterans has been in steady decline since the lockout and barring a significant improvement, both could not only find themselves out of a job with the Blue Jackets next summer, but also out of the NHL.

The Jackets do have some other names including Fredrik Norrena, Manny Malhotra and Christian Backman who will also be UFAs next year.

Puck daddy over at gives his thoughts on the Leclaire signing and gives LighttheLamp a nice plug! From one plug to another follow this link.

Finally as was mentioned in the comments of another post the Antoinne Vermette has been re-signed to a 2 year 5.525 million dollar deal.

As I stated there that is a great deal for Ottawa although I'm very surprised Vermette settled for a 2 year term at that kind of money.

Scratch another name off the wishlist. Now who do we speculate on?


Cystal Ball, point predicition time!

The 16 teams that made the playoffs last season on average scored 233 goals. The high being the 262 scored by the Montreal Canadiens while the low was the Anaheim Ducks notching just 205.

The Columbus Blue Jackets scored just 193 goals which was the worst in the league.

There were many dissapointments last year - espeically when you consider what the starting 6 scored last season:

Nash (38) Fedorov (11) Vyborny (7)
Zherdev (26) Peca (8) Modin(6)

That is a grand total of 96 goals. Obviously not nearly good enough. Both Vyborny and Modin had horrible seasons for their own reasons.

In fact the Jackets had just 5 players in double digit goal scoring in Nash (38), Zherdev (26), Chimera (14), Fritsche (11) & Manny (10). So 3 of our top 5 goal scorers were 3rd to 4th line guys -- again not good enough.

Here are the goal totals from last year for our projected top 6 this season:

Nash (38) Umberger (13) Huselius (25)
Modin (6) Brassard (1) Torres (5)

That total is actually a drop from last season with 88 goals but Brassard only played 17 games in a reduced role. If you throw Peca's 8 in there we are still 2 less goals than the previous top 6.

So what gives? Where do the Jackets get the extra 35 - 40 goals needed to be on par with playoff teams offensively?

To start with the Jackets must get a healthy year out of Modin -- same with Torres. Brassard is going to have to step up and the Nash-Umberger-Huselius line is going to need to produce. The bottom 6 will also need to chip in more than they did this past season as well as the defense will need to score more than the 24 they produced combined last year. Finally there needs to be a surprise whether it be Brassard, Vorack, Filatov, Russell or a guy like York producing much more than expected.

Without further adu here are my point predictions for the 2008-2009 season:

Rick Nash - 42g, 35a for 77p
Kristian Huselius - 24g 52a for 76p
RJ Umberger - 18g 41a for 59p
Fredrik Modin - 23g 21a for 44p
Derick Brassard - 12g 28a for 40p
Michael Peca - 11g 23a for 34p
Jakub Voracek - 15g 14a for 29p
Kris Russell - 8g 21a for 29p
Jason Chimera - 13g 14a for 27p
Raffi Torres - 14g 11a for 25p
Michael York - 6g 15p for 21p
Fedor Tyutin - 7g 14a for 21p
Kristian Backman - 4g 14a for 18p
Mike Commodore - 3g 13a for 16p
Manny Malhotra - 5g 10a for 15p
Rusty Klesla - 5g 10p for 15p
Nikita Filatov - 8g 5a for 13p
Jared Boll - 7g 5a for 13p
Andrew Murray - 4g 8a for 13p
Jan Hejda - 1g 11a for 12p
Craig MacDonald - 2g 8a for 10p
Derek Dorsett - 2g 3a for 6p
Tom Sestito - 2g 1 for 3p
OK Tollefsen - 1g 2a for 3p
Derek MacKenzie - 2g 0a for 2p
Aaron Rome - 1g 1a for 2p
Pascal Leclaire - 0g 2a for 2p

Total goals scored: 241

Just a couple of thoughts when I was putting this together.

* Mike York beats our Jiri Novonty for a spot and he's waived
* Kris Russell has a monster year
* Both Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek make strong contributions
* Fredrick Modin has a strong bounce back year and stays relatively healthy
* Scoring is spread around and 9 guys hit double digits in goals scored
* Nikita Filatov indeeds spends some time on the big team and add some much needed scoring punch
* Playing between Nash and Huselius RJ Umberger has a career best 59 points
* Nash and Hueselius put up similar numbers to last season

I will be the first to admit that this is a very optimistic look - especially for the rookies. Even if I'm off by 20 goals that still puts us in the hunt especially if our defense plays as well as it did last season. That Jackets are going to need to find some quick chemistry and we need guys like Brassard, Vorack and Russell to make impacts.

We also need health on our side in a big way.

Discuss - what are your point predictions for the season?


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leclaire inked to 3 year deal

Puck-rakers just reported that Pascal Leclaire has re-signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Goaltender Pascal Leclaire has signed a three-year contract worth $11.4 million with the Blue Jackets, The Dispatch has learned.

The deal will pay Leclaire $3 million this season, $3.6 million in 2009-10 and $4.8 million in 2010-11.

Hard to argue with those numbers and term. I think both sides compromised to get a deal done.

The deal averages out to 3.8 mil a season - just a little under what I expected. The 3 years term buys up 1 year of unrestricted free agency eligibility (it may be 2 years?) and will give Steve Mason plenty of time to develop. Perhaps in a year or two the Jackets may find themselves in the enviable position of having two #1 goalies on their hands which will be a strong asset to dangle on the trade market.

For now though this is signing makes perfect sense for both the Jackets and Leclaire. It gives the Jackets stability in goal and as mentioned, allows for valuable development time for Mason. For Leclaire he gets rewarded for his performance last year, gets some stability while also allowing him the opportunity to revisit the market in a few years time. This contract will take him to age 28 which will be right at the beginning of his prime.

The most interesting thing to me about this deal is that Howson continues to back load contracts. A practice that I thought Howson would shy away from more than he has. Remember that the more you back load the less payroll flexibility you'll have in the future to fill holes or re-sign players.

Both Umberger and Leclaire are deals Howson back loaded. Tyutin, Modin, Nash and Klesla also have back loaded deals all of which were done under the previous administration or obtained through trade.

Commodore on the other hand was front loaded. From what I can tell with Huselius it looks to be an average deal of 4.75 mil per year.

Anyhow I'll trust that Howson has a plan and that Umberger and Leclaire weren't back loaded just to fit under an ownership mandated budget number (yes I'm giving the benefit of the doubt for now).

This re-signing caps off a flurry of moves that started on draft day by Jackets GM Scott Howson. By my count this brings the Jackets payroll up to 47.335 million for 22 players. The Jackets will most likely carry 23 players so Howson is looking roughly at a payroll of 48-49 million -- by far the most in Jackets history.

Is there room in the coffers for any more wheeling and dealing? Time will tell but as I've stated before I think they'll head into camp with this group and then go from there.

Great news to have Leclaire back in the fold. Its certainly a bit of a relief that things didn't get nasty in the negotiations. Now we just need him to stay healthy!

Discuss -
like the deal?


Jackets to share ECHL affiliate with Ottawa?

According to Kevin Lee over on there is speculation that the Ottawa Senators will share an affiliation with the ECHL Elmira Jackels with the Jackets. Apparenlty this was the case last year as well (news to me):

One little tidbit that I was able to find out is that the Sens are very close to signing an agreement with the Elmira Jackels in the ECHL. I first reported this possibility back on May 21st in a blog here at It is still not known if the Sens will share the Jackels with the Columbus Blue Jackets as they did last year. Regardless, having this affiliate will allow the Sens to keep a few more players that they drafted in the system rather than losing them if they are unable to stick with their AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

For those of you still holding out hope for Vermette Lee also talks a little bit about his current situation:

Murray doesn't want to budge on his two year offer to Vermette. He is seeking a four year deal, similar to that of Chris Kelly but for more money per season. If Vermette ends up going to arbitration I would say it is very unlikely that he finishes the season in a Sens uniform. Murray feels that with some of the young talent progressing in the Sens system that he doesn't want to be on the hook for another long term contract when a younger player and at a cheaper price could very well take Vermette's spot at some point in the next few years.

It really sounds like Vermette's time in Ottawa is coming to a close. I can't see him signing a two year deal when he can look around the league as easy as any of us and see what guys are getting whom put up similar numbers. Heck look no further than our own RJ Umberger. Looks like he's on a crash course to arbitration and as Lee alludes to that will give him a 1 year deal and then he'll most likely be dealt by the deadline.

There is another story here on Vermette. Apparently his arbitration hearing is set for tomorrow. That article offers up this juicy nugget:

Vermette's name has also been mentioned in a number of trade rumours, including swaps with Toronto (for Pavel Kubina), Vancouver (Ryan Kesler or Sami Salo), Chicago, Columbus and Florida.

Contrary to what I've read from some Ottawa fans who say Murray wants back a young mobile defensemen in return for Vermette this article says that:

Murray is not going to be trading Vermette if he has to take back more money in return.

Considering Vermette only made 1.07 million dollars you aren't going to find many young mobile defensemen making less than that (although Russell's name certainly comes to mind). That statement leads me to beleive he can be had for draft picks and/or prospects.

If that is what Ottawa is willing to receive back in a trade perhaps there may be a deal to be made there from a Columbus perspective.

Better yet, what if the arbitrator's award was too big and Ottawa walks away from it thus allowing Vermette to become a unrestricted free agent? I just can't see that happening.

The most likely scenario is for Ottawa to accept the arbitrator's decision and either 1. trade him right away or 2. trade him in-season and most certainly by the deadline.
..and nope, I wouldn't trade Russell for him. I know a lot probably would but I really think this kid is going to be a player for us.

Speaking of Umberger -- if you haven't caught it yet check out for a nice QA session with him. Nothing really new or groundbreaking in the interview but if gives us our frist extended look at him off the ice. Now I can't wait to see what he can bring on it.

Mark Parrish of the Minnesota Wild will be bought out according to this article. What a blow to a guy who grew up in Minnesota who just two short seasons ago chose the Wild as his UFA destination - this business can certainly be cruel.

Parrish is a 31 year old right wing who notched 16g for 30 points in 66 games for the Wild last season. Unfortunatley for the Jackets that would have put him 3rd in goal scoring on their team.

Sportsnet's take:

Thinks like a goal-scorer and is willing to pay the price in front of the net to score goals. Skates well and plays with feistiness. Is capable of lining up on either side of center.

Is only average in the defensive zone. Still drifts too much and needs to focus more on playing 60 minutes every night.

Career potential
Top six winger.

The knock on him is that he's lost a step since coming to Minnesota.

Parrish is similar to Glen Murray in that I'm sure he'll find a job but he'll have to take a pay cut. Again for the Jackets I just can't see them being all that interested as they have wingers of their mold. Perhaps if he comes at less than a million dollars but I have to think that if they add anyone else it will be down the middle or defense.

I will say this. If a Parrish or Murray are still available come camp and its clear the Jackets need more help up front or a key injury occurs never say never.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hejda for Knuble? Not a chance..

Thanks to Erik for pointing this out from Puck-rakers;

Apparently, Nick Kypreos reported on Sportsnet last night that the Blue Jackets were going to trade defenseman Jan Hejda and a fourth-round pick to the Flyers for winger Mike Knuble.

This is ridiculous. This is crazy. This will not happen. Not a chance.

First off this is Kypreos who is about as accurate at rumors as Eklund, Garrioch or LTL (making sure your paying attention!).

Secondly its the offseason so what in the hell else do we have to talk about so might as well dig into it!

Portzline is bang on through. Jan Hejda for a 36 year old UFA to be in Knuble just is not going to happen.

I have no doubt Knuble is on the market as the Flyers need to get under the cap but they aren't going to use him to pry away a 30 year old defensive d-man in Hejda who not only led the Jackets to a team record best +20 but he did so while playing against the other team's top lines at even strength and in penalty kill situations. That is not even mentioning the sweetheart contract he just signed at 3 year 6 million dollars.

I'm not totally against acquiring a guy like Knuble after all he had 29g for 55 points last year and who wouldn't want those numbers? Quite frankly while I like Knuble he's getting up there in age and he's a wing who needs a playmaker and we have enough of those already.

If Howson were going to make another move I'd prefer it be in the center of the ice or another puckmover on the backend. I also couldn't see Howson including a key member of the defense in Hejda to grab a guy an aging veteran who will be a UFA next season.

Speaking of defense, as I was reading HF about this rumor I ran across this great breakdown of stats from last season. Here is a great tidbit on the Jackets defense:

Four Columbus defenders made the top 10. The Blue Jackets had the NHL’s third best defense on the basis of sixth fewest shots and the top shot quality ranking. Hainsey repeated on this list from last season. Foote amassed all but 6 of his PCD points in Columbus.

Jan Hejda and Rusty Klesla were the other two d-men. In fact if you read through it Hejda was up there in just about every defensive statistical category there was.

Defense from a defending standpoint was clearly not an issue last season and with the additions of Commodore and Tyutin I expect that to only improve. Certainly there are a lot of reasons for the defensive success which at the forefront are coaches who install a system and hold their team accountable for it. You also need players to buy in and then you need excellent goaltending to back it all up.

Now generating offense from the blueline is another story entirely but I think it would be real hard to be worse than last season and I think the new additions can move the puck much more efficiently than last year's group. The key to the PP will be Russell and I really think he's going to turn some heads this season.

For those of you who haven't checked out the comments a reader (thanks again Erik) also pointed out this this article from regarding Umberger and his potential fantasy value. This writer uses a lot of the quotes from the Dispatch story but its a good read with some positive spin on the Jackets...for once!

Also another reader pointed out this article regarding the 5 worst signings from this summer. Commodore made the list but somehow Finger did not. Don't worry to much though as Hainsey was #1.

4. Mike Commodore, D, Columbus (Five years, $18.75 million): Holland's rule about paying stay-at-home defensemen applies here, as well. Commodore is a serviceable second-pair blue-liner -- and on a genuine Stanley Cup contender, his deal might not stand out as much as it does with Columbus.

Here's what I'm getting at: as it stands right now, Commodore will be the third highest-paid player on the Blue Jackets, trailing only Rick Nash and newly signed Kristian Huselius. Third-highest! Mike! Commodore! And people are seriously debating whether or not this is a playoff team?

I think I posted it once before when it was on but hey its a slow news day (gawd if its this slow in July then August is going to be a loooong month) so in case anyone missed it be sure to check it out.

Thanks for pointing out these stories everyone. Keep em comin!


Depth charges

I thought today I'd take a look at the top 10 players in each position (top 5 for goalies) and how they stack up against one another in terms of organizational depth. This isn't necessarily where they ultimately project but instead where I think each player ranks in terms of the big team heading into camp.

Left Wing
1. Rick Nash
2. Fredrik Modin
3. Jason Chimera
4. Andrew Murray
5. Nikita Filatov
6. Tom Sestito
7. Alex Picard
8. John Vigilante
9. Maxim Mayorov
10. Nick Sucharski

1. RJ Umberger
2. Derick Brassard
3. Michael Peca
4. Manny Malhotra
5. Mike York
6. Jiri Novotny
7. Craig MacDonald
8. Derek MacKenzie
9. Steve Kelly
10. Kirill Starkov

Right Wing
1. Kristian Huselius
2. Raffi Torres
3. Jared Boll
4. Jakub Voracek
5. Derek Dorsett
6. Adam Pineault
7. Stefan Legein
8. Jake Hansen
9. Peter Pohl
10. Robert Nyholm

1. Fedor Tyutin
2. Mike Commodore
3. Jan Hejda
4. Rusty Klesla
5. Kristian Backman
6. Kris Russell
7. OK Tollefsen
8. Aaron Rome
9. Marc Methot
10. Grant Clitsome

1. Pascal Leclaire
2. Fredrik Norrena
3. Steve Mason
4. Dan LaCosta
5. Allen York

Again I think our organization's strength lies in its wings but I think every other aspect has certainly gotten stronger this past year.

With Mason turning pro we have some nice depth in goatending.

Center is still our weakest position but it looks better than last year when we had Fedorov/Peca/Malhotra/Novoty/MacKenzie as our options down the middle. Its gotten both younger and more skilled in guys like Umberger and Brassard and added more NHL experienced depth with guys like York, MacDonald and Kelly.

A year ago it would have been pretty easy to put together the list for defensemen but Howson clearly saw an organizational weakness on the blueline and has gone hard at addressing it. I think the top four of Tyutin/Commodore/Klesla/Hejda are pretty interchangable but I went with Tyutin as #1 because I think he's the best in all 3 zones. Rounding out the top 10 this year was difficult with guys like Holden/Sigalet/Wilson right there on the bubble.

Since Howsons arrival he has added to the blueline: Tyutin, Commodore, Hejda, Backman, Ruth, Sigalet, Weber, Rome, Wilson, Holden, Goloubef, Delisle, Olson & Regner

The departed have been: Hainsey, Westcott, Foote, Wright & Frechette

Come and gone: Tarnstrom

Remember of course that any depth chart is a living breathing thing. Some guys can play multiple positions like a Murray or Umberger. Come camp a guy like Voracek or Filatov could certainly leap frog some folks and either make the team or player higher in the lineup than what was projected. On the flip side guys could also fall like a Peca, Malhotra, Novotny, etc.

Discuss - how do you feel about the Jackets' organizational depth compared to year's past?


Monday, July 28, 2008

Any more moves?

46 days and counting until training camp opens for rookies on September 12th. Does Howson have anything left up his sleeve?

The biggest move left to make is getting Pascal Leclaire locked down. Reading into some of Don Meehan's (Leclaire's agent) comments in the Dipsatch on Saturday I really think that may happen sometime over the next week or two. The Jackets made a counter and both sides are expected to get together tomorrow to discuss it.

The other big story will be Nikita Filatov. According to his latest blog he is still expecting to be in the North America sometime in August. Right now its all about getting his US work visa.

Other than that though I would expect things to remain relatively quiet until camp ramps up in September.

Never say never though as the Mike York signing last week would attest. If there is a deal out there that makes sense then Howson will pounce. I don't think he's actively pursuing a trade right now though. I really think he wants to see what he's got in camp and then move on from there.

Hard to fault him as even though he hasn't necessarily grabbed that big #1 center headline grabber most hoped he would he has still drastically altered the shape of this roster with big young close-to or in-their-prime players who will compete night and night out.

He's also built up some reliable depth so when the injury bug does strike (and we know it will) Hitch will have some reliable NHLers to fall back on to get them over the hump. Jason Chimera or Manny Malhotra should not see consistent time on the top two lines this season for example. That's not a knock on those two players as they are solid in their checking line and PK roles but instead its a sign of the depth Howson has built.

There are some risks - and every NHL lineup has them sans those damn Wings - with ours being Derick Brassard as a top 6 center. Should he get injured or show he's not ready Howson may have to act. He's got Peca/York/Malhotra/Novonty/Murray/MacKenzie/Kelly/MacDonald as depth down the middle but while that may be good enough to get us through a short term injury it may not be enough should Brassard not show he's able to produce at this level.

Not to worry though as I'm sure I'll come up with plenty of stuff to blab on about until the real fun starts.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

No 3rd jerseys for the Jackets?

Just read an interesting article over on Hockeybuzz from Howard Berger. He lists all the teams that he knows will introduce 3rd jerseys next season and surprise -- the Jackets are not on the list.

Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto & Vancouver are all confirmed to be introducing a 3rd jersey this coming season.

That is 18 of the league's 30 teams.

Perhaps Columbus won't introduce one this year which would surprise me given the success of their previous 3rd jersey and given the extra revenue it would generate. Perhaps they want to wait a year to give their new design and logo more time to "brand". Perhaps they are keeping their 3rd jersey plans closely guarded.

If and when they do introduce a new 3rd its going to be real hard to top the new design they introduced last year which to me was equivalent to knocking it out of the park.

If they were to introduce one using their civil war hat shoulder logo as a primary on the 3rd wouldn't be a bad way to go. Or they just may come up with a new design all together -- cannon anyone?

I've also posted a couple of concept logo designs found at this site.

Discuss - do you think the Jackets should introduce a 3rd jersey this season?


Stat of the day

Combined NHL playoff games of players added this offseason: 188
Umberger-22 Torres-22 Commodore-49 Tyutin-24 Backman-13 Huselius-20 Vigilante-0 McDonald-7 Kelly-25 York-6

Combined NHL playoff games of players lost this offseason: 17
Vyborny-0 Tarnstrom-17 Hainsey-0 Zherdev-0 Brule-0 Fritsche-0 Lindstrom-0 Westcott-0 Konopka-0

Now if you toss in Foote and Fedorov both of those guys alone have a combined 333 games but they also are 37 & 38 years old.
Foote-164 Fedorov-169


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday Round Up

Some really good quotes this morning in the Dispatch regarding the Mike York signing. From York:

"I'm going into camp to compete for a job," York said. "I want to prove myself.

"Let's be honest, I'm not coming off the greatest year in my career. So this is a great opportunity for me."

Howson certainly appears to be taking a wait and see approach:

"We hope he can go back to being the player he was a few years ago," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said. "We have assurances that he's taking it (conditioning) more seriously. I've talked to him about it personally.

"But we'll see. He'll get a chance to make the club in training camp."

Through his agent York likes his chances to make the squad:

"His comment to me was: 'I'm going to make (the Blue Jackets), so who cares if it's a two-way deal?' "

A day later I like this signing even more. I do think York could make this team if he comes into camp in shape and with his off ice problems in his rear view mirror. He's going to have to compete though as he'll have to make the deepest Blue Jacket team to date.

It also looks like York had never signed with anyone from the KHL although the Dispatch did say that he had a couple of offers.

Puck-rakers has a lot more York and York's agent quotes here.

The Dispatch also mentioned the Leclaire negotiations and they appear to be progressing:

"The discussions are good, they're positive," Meehan said. "We're going to begin to narrow this down (on Tuesday)."

I get the feeling both sides are ready to get this deal done. It wouldn't surprise me if both sides give a little more and an agreement is reached sometime next week. By all accounts it appears to be a 3 year deal and my guess the total will be right around that 12 million dollar mark.

ESPN's Burnside has released their "summer" power rankings and they put us 10th in the West:

The Blue Jackets are bigger and more mobile along the blue line, but still don't have enough offense; and, unless R.J. Umberger or Derick Brassard is the answer, Columbus still doesn't have a No. 1 center to play with Rick Nash.

The usual suspects are in the top 4 in Detroit, San Jose, Dallas and Anaheim. Chicago, Edmonton, Calgary and Nashville round out the top 8.

The bright side is that Columbus isn't dead last like a lot of folks had them last year. As I've stated before the Jackets certainly aren't a lock for the playoffs but its going to be a battle amongst many teams in the West for those last 4 to 5 spots and the Jackets will be right in that mix.

For any Pierre-Marc Bouchard fans out there you can scratch him off the list (which I had done anyways at this point) but he has re-signed with Minnesota for 5 years at 20.4 million. Bouchard was an RFA who had filed for arbitration.

Marek Svatos of the Avalanche was another RFA who inked a 2-year deal with the Avalanche yesterday.

Some of the more prominant RFAs left out there are Jay Bouwmeester, the Antoine Vermette, Valterri Flippula, Patrick O'Sullivan, Jaret Stoll and of course our own Pascal Leclaire.

Reports out of Florida yesterday were that Bouwmeester rejected a 6 year deal worth upwards of 5 mil a year. It looks like he'll take Florida to arbitration, take a 1 year deal and try to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. This is a story that will only grow as the year progresses and he could become the hottest commodity out there at the trade deadline.

Bouwmeester would certainly be an interesting player to consider. He's got skill to burn but I've also heard he's got the passion and personality of a ping pong ball.

Update: CNNSI's Allan Muir has a good read about who from the '08 draft class could make the NHL next year. If you recall only Kane, Gagner, Turris and Perron saw time last year -- all forwards:

But that may change this season with Drew Doughty, the second overall pick and a good bet to earn a spot in Los Angeles. The Kings lost three defenders from last year's squad, and from here anyway, he looks like one of the top three options they have to fill the spots. The Thrashers also have jobs to offer, and No. 3 pick Zach Bogosian is being counted on to win one. And given Toronto's history of throwing young defensemen to the wolves, Luke Schenn (No. 5) might see some time on their blue line.

While those three are probables, there's only one sure thing: top pick Steven Stamkos. The Lightning have him inked, not penciled, in as their second-line center, and given the caliber of players that Tampa has added to ease his transition, he's the preseason favorite to win the Calder.

Other forwards who are thought to have a chance to play this year are Nikita Filatov (No. 6, Columbus), Mikkel Boedker (No. 8, Phoenix), Colin Wilson (No. 9, if Nashville can talk him into leaving school) and Viktor Tikhonov (No. 28, Phoenix). Filatov and Boedker both have the speed and hands to make an instant impact as top-six forwards, but the other two likely would be worked in slowly in depth roles if they were to stick.

In terms of impact? Give me Stamkos and Bogosian.

Quite frankly that while I love Bogosian I wouldn't count on he or any of the big 4 to make significant impacts just because it takes so long for defensemen to make the adjustment. The last d-man to make the jump straight to the NHL after his draft year was Jay Bouwermeester and that year he notched 4g 12a for 16p and was a -29.....ouch.

Instead look for more forwards to make an impact. Stamkos is a given but I certainly woudn't write off Filatov, Wilson or Boedker.


Friday, July 25, 2008

York vids

Some late night viewing of the Jackets newest addition:

I couldn't resist... Sucker has over 600 thousand hits...that goal never gets old!

Here is an interesting nugget on York. According to he's only been in one NHL fight -- that was back in 2003-2004 season against Stephane Robidas. Of course that's not what a player like York brings to the table but I found it interesting anyways.


Jackets hope for "new" York

Ha! Bet you thought Howson was done shopping this summer didn't ya!?

Well I am not gonna lie as I certainly thought it he was. Instead he's just moved from the premium rack to the bargain bin with the report from Puck-rakers that the Jackets have signed Mike York to a 2-way contract worth 750k at the NHL level and 100k at the minor league level.

So what gives here?

Depth, depth and more depth.

York is a 30 year odl 5'10" 190lb winger/center who has 8 NHL seasons under his belt. He was drafted in the 6th round in 1997 draft and spent 4 years with Michigan State of the CCHA. Sportsnet's take:

Has great speed, excellent playmaking ability and durability--despite his lack of size. Generally plays a sound two-way game.

Tends to wear down physically because of his smallish stature. Needs to find his niche at the NHL level.

Career potential
Second line center.

York played with Phoenix last year only tallying 6g 8a for 14p in 63 games. He finished a -4 with 4 PIMs. His best season came back in 2001 when he split time with the Rangers/Oilers and notched 20g 41a for 61p. Overall he's had 5 seasons with 40 or more points.

Of course you did catch that I said Oilers right? Aha -- there is your Howson connection.

The last 3 years has seen York's game really hit the skids. Its been widely reported that he's faced many off ice issues with substance abuse. With this signing one can only hope York has cleaned himself up and can focus on hockey.

This is a classic low risk high reward signing by Howson. I mean why not right? With his experience with York in Edmonton Howson knows what a clean and sober York can bring and if that's the version we get than this guy will help. If its not well then he's on a 2-way so they put him on waivers and if he clears the Crunch get another veteran to help them.

This kind of move isn't new for Howson. If you recall he made a similar signing last year in Kris Beech. Heck you could even put Sheldon Brookbank on that group as well.

If York makes a case in camp then the Jackets have some decisions to make. York on the team would most likely mean Novotny or Malhotra on the waiver wire.

This move is all about looking for value and creating competition with the goal to ice the best team possible from the 1st to 4th lines. No complacency in this locker room - everyone fighting for jobs.

Right now this is how I see the forward roster shaping up:

Nash Umberger Huselius
Modin Brassard Torres
Chimera Peca XXX

Murray/Malhotra/Voracek/York/Novotny/Sestito/Dorsett/Pineault/Filatov will all duke it out for those final positions.

So since the draft Howson has upped his new blood head count to 10: Umberger, Torres, Commodore, Tyutin, Backman, Huselius, Vigalante, McDonald, Kelly, York

Heads that have been chopped is at 9: Vyborny, Tarnstrom, Hainsey, Zherdev, Brule, Fritsche, Lindstrom, Westcott & Konopka

Then of course guys like Hejda, Peca and MacKenzie have been re-signed.

According to TSN Mike York: "11-Jul-08 Signed with the Sibir Novosibirsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)."

Well that is an interesting wrinkle. Stand by to see how this one plays out.

Discuss - what you do think of Howson bringing York into the mix?


Nash on re-signing with the Jackets: "If everything lined up right"

The Dispatch ran a story this morning regarding Rick Nash's opinion on the Jackets offseason. He gave the text book answers that he's excited, etc, etc. Howerver where it gets really interesting is when the article starts talking about Nash's long term future with the Jackets. He's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in two years time:

"It's always in your head obviously about (where) your following years will be," said Nash, who scored 38 goals last season. "I'm happy in Columbus; I love it in Columbus. I would stay here if everything lined up right."

The quote that stands out of course is the "If everything line up right".

Fans from here to Toronto will read into that statement in many different ways. Does "lining up right" refer to money, term, winning, playoffs, coaching, committment, management?

I would suspsect its a combination of all of that.

GM Scott Howson left no doubt as to what the organization's plans are:

"Hopefully, (a new contract) is something we can arrive at mutually," Howson said.

One option is a "lifetime" deal similar to the one Tampa Bay Lightning lavished on captain Vincent Lecavalier. The 28-year-old center agreed to an 11-year, $85 million contract on July 12. In January, the Washington Capitals locked up Alex Ovechkin for 13 years at $124 million.

"We have not done one yet," Howson said. "But if we were going to do it, Rick is the person we would like to do it with.

"Obviously, we want him to be with the Jackets for a long, long time, but it's still very early in the process and we have him under contract for two more years."

The bottom line is this - there is really no sense in worrying about Nash until July 1st of next offseason. If the Jackets can't get him signed at some point next summer to an extension then that will be the time to ramp up the speculation.

Nash is the captain. He is the franchise. There is a lot of pressure on him to lead this team to the playoffs. He seems up to the challenge as great players do. Howson has surrounded him with quality linemates and there are a lot of young players to get excited about in the pipeline.

If the Jackets can go out and have a successfull season it will certainly go a long way towards getting Nash and fans excited again about this franchise and quite frankly who would want to jump ship just when its finally setting sail.

Here is a good read on the St. Louis Blues and their chances at the post-season. There is a Jackets nugget included:

Nevertheless, is it fair to expect them to give Detroit a run for their money in the Central Division next year? (I’ll wait ‘till you’re done laughing out the answer before I continue.)

Is it smart to think the Blues will be better than a Chicago Blackhawks squad that looks primed and ready to make a huge jump in the standings?

Is it rational to assume St. Louis will finish ahead of the Nashville Predators, who still have more or less the same healthy mix of youth and experience that secured a playoff spot for them last year?

Heck, even the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets appear to be at least somewhat improved.

And let’s not forget about teams outside of the Blues’ division; if you assume Detroit, San Jose, Anaheim, and Dallas are playoff locks in the Western Conference, are you honestly prepared to say St. Louis will edge out Minnesota, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, and Colorado – not to mention their Central Division foes – for one of the final four post-season berths?

To me the only locks are Detroit and San Jose. I think the West will be wild and is wide open this year - lots of competitive teams - and it wouldn't suprise me in the least to see a perenial contender the last few years take a nose dive.

Intersting that has picked up on the Commodore comments from the Dispatch about Ottawa's locker room being "complacent". Quite frankly I think Commodore was taking it real easy on that mess that was reported over and over and over again regarding the state of the squad last season.

The Jackets have signed Michael York according to Puck-rakers to a 2-way contract. I'll have some anaylsis on that deal a little later today.


Thursday, July 24, 2008


Just wanted to take a moment to thank a reader for the new title graphic for this blog. Its sweet!!

Also a big thanks to everyone out there who reads this little Jackets deal we've got going on here at Light the Lamp! I love reading all of the feedback in the comments so keep em comin.

Okay -- now back to our regularly scheduled Blue Jackets offseason discussions.


Cap casualties Part II

A couple of days ago we looked at teams at or above the cap. Today lets take a look at team right below it.

What's different here of course is that these teams may be very comfortable where they are at salary wise and don't have to make any moves. Still with injuries and call ups there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room to play with here. When things may get real interesting for these teams is actually when the season starts and if one of em stumbles they won't have a whole lot of room to make any moves thus salary dumps may be needed to shake things up.

San Jose Sharks - 55.326 mil
Interesting that the Sharks were one of the three teams last year to make the post-season who weren't in the top half of the league in spending. With the additions of Dan Boyle at 6 mil and Rob Blake at 5 mil which add to guys like Thornton (7.2), Marleau (6.3) and Nabokov (5.5) that has certainly changed. Marleau of course was rumored to be on the move before his NTC (no trade clause) kicked in as it wasn't expected that the Sharks would spend this high. After the loss of Brian Campbell that did not happen and apparently ownership gave them the green light to spend more this summer. Should the Sharks need to cut back salary there are a player or two that could be moved.

Players who may get dumped:
Kyle McLaren seems to be a name that is tossed around most in San Jose circles. McLaren is a 31 year old defensemen slated to make 2.5 mil this season before becoming a UFA. He's a big rugged defensemen who can level some bone jarring hits (think Trevor Letowski a few years back) but isn't going to give you much offensively. He's also been battling some injuries the last couple of season only getting in 61 and 67 games. He's a guy who would have some value on the market and with the additions of Boyle/Blake/Lukowich could find himself the odd man out in SJ.

Jonathan Cheechoo. After signing his big sweetheart deal that concluded his 93 point rocket richard winning season Cheechoo has seen his production dip the past two seasons. He scored 67 points two years ago and just 37 this past year. He's on the books for 3 more years at 3, 3.5 & 3.5. If his game doesn't pick back up this season Sharks GM Doug Wilson may look to dump him but if he's only putting up 37 points playing next to guys like Marleau and Thornton then what will he do elsewhere?

Partrick Marleau. Yes I know he's got an NTC but hear me out. If things continue to sour for him in SJ (unlikely now that they brought in a new coach) it may be in both the team and the player's interest to pursue a change of scenery. I certainly don't see this playing out this offseason but I wouldn't rule it out mid-season should the team or Marleau struggle.

Jackets interest:
Unfortunately in both McLaren and Cheechoo the Jackets have enough of those kinds of players. They have shutdown d-men and they have wingers who need centers to get them the puck. Should Marleau become available depending on how Brassard is coming along I could most certainly see the Jackets jumping back into those discussions. The difference this time however would be that Marleau would have to waive his NTC to come here? Depending on how the Jackets are fairing in the standings who knows how that could play out.

New Jersey Devils - 55.056 mil
Looking over the numbers this one surprised me a bit. I know Elias and Brodeur eat up quite a bit of salary and Brian Rolston was signed to a nice deal this offseason but off the top of my head I couldn't place where all the rest of the dough was going. Looking over their numbers its because there is a just a big group of guys in that 2 to 4 million ranges -- Gionta, Zubrus, Parise, Madden, Langenbrunner, Holik, Pandolfo, Martin, White and Salvador and all make 2.5 mil or more. Lou is certainly spreading the wealth.

Players that may get dumped:
Brian Gionta's name seems to pop up the most here. The 29 year old right wing is scheduled to make 4 mil this season and will then be a UFA. Similar to Cheechoo Gionta had a monster season a couple of years ago scoring 48g for 89p and then signed a nice 3 year 12 million dollar deal. Since then his point totals have slipped to 45 and 53. If the Devils need to create some elbow room under the cap Gionta may be the devil domino to fall.

John Madden is really the only other guy on this roster I could see the Devils parting with. Problem with Madden is that he put up his best season last year notching 20g for 43 points. He's 35 and will be unrestricted next season. Its hard to see the Devils parting with Madden who has been there seemingly forever but if they don't see him in their future plans because of money, age or whatever then they could opt to move him.

Jackets interest:
Is there much more of a "Hitch" type player than John Madden? Hard nosed, gives100% every night, a leader, a playoff performer, good in all 3 zones and can chip on the score sheet? This guy plays the game the right way every night. Problem is he's an ideal 3rd line checking center and we have those. He's the kind of guy you find a place for. Gionta is an undersized winger who is feisty and has a nose for the net. Tough call on him but given the fact Howson is building a team to be big and competitive I don't think he'd make a play for Gionta even if the Jackets find their offense struggling -- he just doesn't fit the mold of the team they are trying to build.

Edmonton Oilers - 54.313 mil
Ah remember the good ole days when the Oilers were considered small market and couldn't afford to keep their star players (a.k.a Weight, Arnott, Marchant, Guerin) -- my how those days have changed. With the Canadian dollar soaring, hockey still and always the dominate sport north of the boarder and new ownership very willing to open the pocketbook the Oil have seemingly struck Oil in their payroll. They've got 16.75 mil locked up in 3 defensemen named Visnovsky, Souray & Gilbert. They've got 15.45 mil locked up in 4 forwards named Penner, Hemsky, Cole & Horcoff. In fact Horcoff is scheduled to make 7 mil alone next season under the terms of his new contract. Times are good in Alberta. I think Lowe is happy with his roster and payroll but should the Oil stumble however who may be chopped?

Players who may get dumped:
Eric Cole is a guy whose just got traded and is slated to make 4 mil before he becomes a UFA. If he struggles to find chemistry and shows he's unhappy as an Oiler he's a guy that could easily be moved. In fact I will go out on a limb and say that I would be very surprised if Cole finished this season as an Oiler -- I just don't see a very good fit.

I know they just signed him last year but Sheldon Souray at 6.25 million this year and then 5.5, 4.5 and 4.5 the next 3 years really stands out. If the Oil struggle I would have to think Souray is a guy they'd try to move. The problem is that Souray's contract is damn near immovable.

Jackets interest:
I think there would be a lot of people who would want an Eric Cole - especially for a playoff run. With Howson's relationship with Edmonton (he's made two trades already) anything could happen. Again though Cole is a winger who needs someone to get him the puck - something we have a lot of. If injuries occur then who knows. As far a Souray -- nothing to see here -- not with that albatross contract.

Pittsburgh Penguins - 54.061
Two words: Crosby Malkin. Although the good news for Pittsburgh is that Malkin's big payday won't kick in til next season which at that point the Pens will have 18 million tied up in 2 franchise centers. For now though Crosby is the high man on the totem pole making 9 mil next season. Gonchar is at 6 mil while Fleury is at 5. They have a couple of other d-men and a forward in Whitney, Oprik and Satan who are at 3+ and a few other players in that 2+ range. With missing out on Hossa the Pens added wingers Satan and Fedotenko and locked up Orpik. They are pretty comfortable with the salary situation especially given that they have a new stadium and all its new revenues coming next season. If they did want to trim back some salary there are a couple of options.

Players who may get dumped:
Daryl Sydor. Former Jacket Sydor is a 36 year old d-man slated to make 2.5 mil this season. He's seen his playing time decrease significantly and cap or no cap I think the Pens would love to shed this guy and his salary. At this point he carries almost negative value on the trade market due that contract and level of play. It wouldn't surprise me if he's waived at some point but the Pens may also hold onto him for depth or try to dump him at the deadline.

Hal Gill. I actually thought he played really well in the playoffs and I don't think the Pens would move him. Still he's 33 with only 1 year left on his deal at 2.1 mil. If he struggles or a young d-man steps up for cheaper he could be trade bait.

Jackets interest:
Hitch has experience with Sydor and I know they tried to land him last offseason but he chose Pittsburgh. At this point in his career I doubt the Jackets would have much interest. Gill is a hulking shutdown d-man - again a guy we have lots of. I see both of these guys more as trade deadline additions than early season salary dumps if they get moved at all with the Jackets as unlikely destinations.

There you have it. With this group there is a lot less pressure to move anyone as they are under the cap. The pressure would come from slow starts, injuries or management rolling back their budgets. I wouldn't expect any of these teams to make any major moves to trim salary until camp or into the regular season.

Discuss - anything of interest here?


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Winter Classic II

A cool pic of what the Winter Classic setup at Wrigley Field in Chicago will look like:

Link to bigger pic here.

Pretty cool. Anyone planning on making the trip out since the Jackets don't play at home on New Year's Eve this season?


Wednesday round up

Former Blue Jackets Duvie Westcott and Mark Hartigan have signed with Dinamo of the KHL according to their web site.

At this stage of their careers both of these players are chasing the money. They've had their shots at the NHL with mixed success and if a full time job in NHL isn't an option its time to think about getting what they can out of the sport before their career's end. With the money the KHL is shelling out to try to get that league off the ground this move for these two players doesn't come as much of a surprise to me.

Besides, Hartigan did become the latest in the string of former Blue Jackets to get his name on the cup with the Wings last season - not to mention winning one with the Ducks the year before - so what's left to grab but the benjamins?

Jackets President Michael Priest was quoted in

When the Columbus Blue Jackets parted ways with founding president and general manager Doug MacLean last year, late-owner John McConnell replaced him with Mike Priest, a career financial guy who oversaw many of the family’s investments. Priest served as a liaison between the family and franchise management, but he never envisioned himself as a sports executive.

With MacLean out, McConnell decided to split the job in the manner that most franchises do. He asked Priest to find a general manager. Then he pressed Priest to take over as president.

“Honestly, I was a little taken aback,” Priest said. “My job, I thought, would be to find the next person to take this job — not to be the person to do this job..”

Though he had not managed the franchise on a daily basis, Priest was familiar with it. He met with sales and finance executives for updates every two weeks for two years. The night before he took over, he jotted down notes on aspects of the operation he wanted to overhaul, or at least tweak.

After 15 months in the job, Priest has become comfortable in his new environment. But it’s clear that he still does not think of himself as a sports executive. He is an executive who happens to work in sports. Were that to change tomorrow, he says he’d be able to move along happily.

“There’s an independence in that,” Priest said. “If the McConnells decide that someone else is better served to do this … it will not make a great difference in my life as long as they feel that I’ve been of value and can help in another way.

Those quotes don't strike me as a guy who is very excited to be president of a pro sports franchise. Very "ho-hum". I want some brains in the position but a little passion for the job wouldn't hurt either.

Good read in the Dispatch on Commodore and his hopes to stay in Columbus for a while. I like this quote:

"I didn't pick a place where I would come, lay back, pick up a paycheck and go to Buckeye games," he said. "I came to a place where I thought we could win."

This guy just "gets it". He's been signed here less that 3 weeks and he already understands this market more than most players who have spent years here. He not blind and knows the Buckeye's are the top dog and he accepts it and plays off it. By doing so he creates interest in himself and the Blue Jackets.

I also love his honesty about his contract. Again he's very transparent and knows he got a sweet deal and doesn't' apologize for it:

"I'll be the first to admit I got a very good contract for myself," Commodore said. "I know (NBC and TSN analyst) Pierre McGuire ran his mouth up there, which is no shocker. I don't set the market. If you take what I've done in the last three years and take my comparables ... I don't think by any stretch of the imagination it was an unfair contract."

Its free agency and defensemen have and always will be paid a premium. Sure we overpaid but if you want to be a player in free agency and hope to attract players - especially to a franchise with limited success like the Jackets - its certainly to be expected.

I'm looking forward to more Commodore. Of course his on ice performance is key and I have no doubt Hitch will play this guy to his strengths. However with a team and market still looking to find its way having a personality like Commodore in the locker and out in the community promoting this sport is a big bonus. also has a 10 question interview with Commodore so be sure to check that out as well.

According to Glen Murray of the Boston Bruins has been placed on waivers which is the first step of the buyout process (apparently there is a 48 hour period to buy out players -- news to me!).

Hey - even I saw this one comin! I suspsect Murray will be in a "Bertuzzi-like" situation and get gobbled up by someone -- be it at a drastic discount from the 4 mil he was slated to make this season.

Just a quick explanation on the Murray buyout. I did some checking into it as I thought the buyout period was over -- which it is. So how did Boston get to buyout Murray? Apparently if a player elects for arbitration like Dennis Wideman did for the B's - there is a 48 hour window to buy someone out even if that player signs before the arbitration hearing which Wideman also did.

That is all news to me but there you have it.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cap casualties Part I

With all the talk about adding another top 6 forward to the CBJ coffers, at the suggestion of a reader, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the teams that are just at or above the cap. These are teams that perhaps the Jackets could take advantage of in terms of adding another roster player to their group.

Before getting to the teams one must keep in mind that even though the Jackets are some 8 to 9 million below the cap limit (this is assuming Lelclaire gets signed for around 4 mil a year) it does not mean the Jackets will spend that high. Of course teams above the salary cap will be looking to dump salary, probably older players who no longer fit their short or long term plans, thus the Jackets would have to be willing to not only take on even more salary but do so with an older player.

Lets take a look at the teams above or at the cap and just who may come available as a salary dump. I've taken these numbers from -- please keep in mind this is not a 100% accurate picture of each team. As I was glancing over some of their numbers for some of these cap teams they haven't taken into consideration some buyouts for instance. Still its a good source to generate some discussion.

As we discuss each team remember the following:

*Upper limit: 56.7 million
*Lower limit: 40.7 million
*Teams can be over the cap until the start of the season

Teams above the cap

Philladelphia Flyers - 60.592

The Flyers continue to spend spend spend. They have two players making 8 mil this year in Briere and Timonen. They have 3 making over 5 in Richards, Carter & Gagne. Then 3 more making over 3.5 in Hatcher, Rathje and Biron. This doesn't even include Lupul's new contract at 4.25 per that kicks in next season. Holmgren must have a plan to shed some salary and chances are it starts on defense.

Players who may get dumped:
Derian Hatcher is in the final year of his contract and rumor has it that the Flyers would like to see him retire to free up his 3.5 million - that or go on the extended IR. I wouldn't count on Hatcher doing any of it so Holmgren may have no other choice but to put him on waivers as I don't see teams lining up to take on his age (36) and contract.

Mike Rathje is another guy who at 34 is a guy the Flyers could try to dump. Unlike Hatcher he's got two years left on his deal at 3.5 per. I don't see any teams touching that so again it may be a case of waivers or looking towards other options.

Simon Gagne is another player who is taking a big piece of that cap up with his 5.250 million. Gagner is a great player when healthy. The problem is his health in terms of concussions - he only played in 25g last season. Gagne could generate some interest out there but with 3 years left on his deal at 5.25 a season its a big risk to take.

Mike Knuble has 1 year left on his 2.8 million dollar deal. He's 36 and scored 29g for 55p last year. He's certainly a guy Holmgren shouldn't have much problem moving for a team looking for another scoring winger. Again though I don't see him returning a whole lot in return.

Scottie Upshall is a 24 year old right winger scheduled to make 1.25 mil next season. Upshall 6th overall pick back in 2002 who has never quite lived up to his draft status. He notched 14g 16a last season. He's another guy team would be interested in but at 1.25 million its going to take more than that to get them under the cap.

Jackets interest:
Hatcher, Rathje and Gagne I don't see happening due to various reason like salary, age and injury history. Knuble is a long shot that I could only see getting serious if the Jackets lose one of their current top 6 wingers to a season ending injury. Upshall is a guy who would fit the core of the Jackets nicely but at this point in his career he's more of a bottom 6 guy whom we have plenty of.

Chicago Blackhawks - 59.208

When you have 12.375 million tied up in two goaltenders your going to have cap problems. Simply put one is going to have to go and considering the 'hawks just inked Huet to a shiny 4 year deal that odd man out could be Khabibulin and his 6.75 mil in salary. The question is who if anyone is willing to take that contract on if even for just a year? If they keep Habby are there other options?

Players who may get dumped:
As mentioned Khabibulin seems to be the obvious choice here. Howerver there a couple of others..

Martin Havlat. Havlat is a very dynamic player when healthy. Unfortunately that never occurs. In the past 3 seasons combined he's only played in 109 games. The most being in 2006 when he got in 56. At 6 million a year that just ain't going to cut it and if the 'hawks can cut him lose they will most certainly do so.

Robert Lang. Lang was signed as a stop gap until some of their young studs were ready. With both Kane and Toews steamrolling onto the scene last year that reduced Lang's role in the windy city. With only 1 year left on his deal at 4 mil per he could be on the move.

Jackets interest:
None of the above. Jackets are happy with their goaltending. They won't take the chance on Havlat as I think he falls into that "cheap skill" category of players that Howson will stay away from. Lang is the only guy who may have an outside shot but I think Brassard would have to really crash and burn and Howson would have to have a lot of other doors close on him before he looks Lang's way at a division rival no less.

Boston Bruins - 58.299

With the recent signing of Denis Wideman to a 4 year deal worth close to 16 mil it pushes the Bruins over the cap by a couple of mil. Looking at the Bruins roster they have 3 players over 5 mil with Chara, Savard and Bergeron. 4 at 4 mil with Murray, Fernandez, Ryder and Wideman. The biggest problem with the Bruins is their injuries - both Bergeron and Fernandez spent the majority of the year on IR. If those two are ready to go then Boston will need to trim some salary.

Players who may get dumped:
Glen Murray. He's a 35 year old right winger who has 1 year left on his deal at 4.15 million. Murray had a tough year last year with injuries and only notched 17g in 63 games. In fact he's had injury problems the last 3 years. I can definitely see the Bruins wanting to move in another direction, especially since they signed Ryder to such a rich deal this offseason, but they may find it difficult to do so even as a salary dump. If they get desperate waivers is also an option.

Peter Schaefer. A 31 year old left wing who had a very dissapointing year last season for the B's only notching 9g for 26p. He's got 2 years left on his deal at 2.3 per. If the B's can't move Murray Schaefer is next in line.

PJ Axelsson. This 33 year old left winger has one year left on his deal at 1.850 million. He's a untility guy who won't put up big numbers but is reliable and good for about 25 points a season. A team looking for a good 2-way 3rd liner who can kill penalties may have an interest. I think the B's would rather move other players but if they are forced to lose a couple of mil to get under the cap this guy could be moved.

Jackets interest:
I don't see any interest in Murray or Schaefer at this point. Murray needs a center to get him the puck and we have enough wingers with that problem. Schaefer's down year and contract is to scary at this point to chance and besides he's another winger. The Jackets have their Axelsson clone in Michael Peca. Unfortunately what the Jackets really need is a guy like Marc Savard and he's not going anywhere.

Calgary Flames - 58.179

The Flames have identified their core and locked them down for the foreseeable future. Guys like Iginla, Phaneuf, Kiprusoff, Sarich, Regehr and Langkow have all been signed to high dollar long term deals. That group of 6 alone will cost the Flames 35.4 million next season. Looking over their roster the Flames may not be as high over the cap as has them as I know Anders Eriksson, Rhett Warrener and Marcus Nilson were all bought out. They still carry a cap it but not as much as they have listed.

Players who may get dumped:
Calgary has already trimmed a lot of fat with the dumps of Eriksson, Warrener and Nilson. They made offseason additions in Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Bourque, Glencross and Vandermeer. They also re-signed Conroy and as mentioned Langkow. For a team that may be over the cap that sure is a lot of player personel added and you know they won't move any of the new or re-signed blood -- if they have to dump someone I guess it would be..

Adrian Aucoin. He's scheduled to make 4 mil this year but after coming over from a miserable couple of years in Chicago Aucoin put up solid numbers last season scoring 10g and 35p. He's in the last year of his deal but I think him moving is unlikely.

Mathew Lombardi. With Langkow, Conroy and Cammalleri all capable of playing center where does that leave the 26 year old Lombardi? He's signed for 2 more years at 1.55 and 2.35. He had 14g for 36p last season. If Calgary needed some breathing room under the cap surely there would be a lot of takers for this guy.

Jackets interest:
I'd rather have Aucoin than Backman but that's neither here or there. I think for now the Jackets are okay with their defense and wouldn't take on Aucoin's 4 mil as a straight salary dump. Mathew Lombardi is completely different story. Kid has speed to kill and play making skills. He is the exact kind of player I could see Howson jumping on if he came available on the cheap.

Anaheim Ducks - 58.013

The Ducks are an interesting team to keep an eye on. They've locked up 3 of their young studs on offense in Perry, Getzlaf and Kunitz for the next 4+ years. However they have 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next summer and only 29 mil commited to the books. They've already bought out Bertuzzi to help get under the cap this season and are going to need to make at least another move to achieve that goal. Its been widely speculated that Burke will head to Toronto after this season to expect the Ducks to hover right around the cap to make another Cup run.

Players who may get dumped:
Mathieu Schneider. Rumor after rumor has Schneider and his 5.75 million being shopped on the cheap. He makes sense to cut lose given his age at 39 and contract which expires after this season. Still that's quite a bit of salary to swallow and it wouldn't surprise me if Burke puts him on waivers at some point.

Jackets interest:
Really when I look down that lineup Schneider is the only guy whom really makes sense especially with Scott Neidermeyer coming back for another year. I think the Jackets may have an interest in a guy like Schneider come the trade deadline but for now they can't take take on a 5.75 mil salary dump unless they send someone (Backman?) the other way.

Washington Capitals - 56.980

It sure didn't take the Capitals long to abondon their build from within watch the bottom line plan and spend past cap ceiling did it? I guess when you finally hit on a couple of youngsters like Ovechkin/Green/Backstrom/Semin your philosophy can change quickly -- it sure would be nice to see Brassard/Voracek/Russell/Filatov/Mason do that for us but I digress. Of course with success of younger players comes time to pay for them which Ovechkin and Green benefited from this season. Throw the re-signing of Fedorov in there for 4 mil (have fun with that one Caps) and they are right up against the cap.

Players who may get dumped:
If the Caps have to move someone the biggest rumor out there is 35 year old center Michael Nylander. Nylander is singed for 3 more years at 5.5, 5.5 and 3 million. He only played in 40 games last year but piled up 11g and 37 points. Unfortunately Nylander suffered a season ending shoulder injury midway through the season and the Caps went on their playoff run without him. If the Caps need to dump salary he'll be a prime candidate.

Jackets interest:
Nylander would be a tempting target should the Jackets struggle out of the gate. If you look at the prior 2 seasons before his injury he had 83 and 79 points and he could help jump start the Jackets offense should it struggle. At the end of the day though I think Howson passes -- he's just to old and to much of risk given the 3 years left on his contract. Acquiring him would be a desperation move ala Fedorov of a couple seasons ago. Howson doesn't strike me as a guy who will make that kind of deal. If he had only 1 year left on his deal I could see more interest on the Jackets part (and most of the league for that matter).

So those are the teams at or above the cap. The player I think the Jackets would have the most interest in out of the whole bunch is Mathew Lombardi. Why? Because he's only 26, he's a center, affordable and plays the type of game Howson/Hitch covet. Unfortunately for all those reasons Calgary wouldn't want to move him.

I just can't see Howson taking a veteran salary dump -- especially if they have more than 1 year left on their deal. Should our defense struggle and guys like Schneider and/or Aucoin are still hanging out there perhaps there may be some interest but I think the Jackets would send back some salary in that kind of deal.

Over the next day or so I'll take a look at teams that are just under that cap like San Jose, Edmonton, New Jersey and Detroit so see if there are any potential dumps amongst them.

Check this article out from Wes Goldstein of in regards to under-the-radar signings:

Kristian Huselius, Columbus: He didn't come cheap for Columbus at $19 million for four years, but considering some of the prices being paid these days, that's not a bad deal for someone who is entering his prime at age 29. Huselius is one of the most skilled players no one seems to know about, a result of him having spent his career so far in relative obscurity in Florida and, more recently, Calgary. His game can be a little soft some times, but he's an offensive force who will fit in well with Rick Nash and the impressively rebuilt Blue Jackets.

Discuss - out of those teams are there any players that catch your attention in particular?


Monday, July 21, 2008

The Vermette dilemma

I've read quite a bit lately on a debate over on HF regarding fans arguments to and for trading this year's 1st round pick to Ottawa for Antoine Vermette.

For those unfamiliar with Vermette he's a 26 year old winger/center who notched 53 points last season for Ottawa. He's an un-signed restricted free agent and scuttle butt has it that Ottawa is not willing to pay what he would command so its thought that he's on the trading block.

Vermette filed for arbitration which makes him ineligible for teams to sign him to an offer sheet so any thoughts of Vermette in the bug would have to come via trade.

With an obvious hole at center in the Jackets' top 6 Vermette would certainly make sense for the CBJ. Sure Brassard could step in but many Jacket fans aren't willing to risk the season on yet another young stud who may or may not deliver -- they want proven bodies.

Quite frankly after 7 years of losing who can blame them right?
Assuming for a bit that Ottawa does want to move Vermette would the Jackets be interested?

I would say of course but the problem is two fold - what to give up and can the Jackets afford him?

In term of assets to give up many Jacket fans are willing to part with this year's first round pick -- some are not. I would say Howson is in the "not" camp for now and I would agree with that.


A couple of reasons.

I know even 1st round draft picks can be crap shoots (see Brule/Picard) but until we know what kind of team we've got here you can't risk trading away what could be a top 10 pick in a very deep draft.

That's not to say Howson is against trading the pick but if for some terrible reason the Jackets find themselves in the lottery again a top 5 pick will return you a much better player than Vermette.

Of course some would then say well trade it now and get Vermette and you won't be a lottery team.

He certainly could but what if he isn't? Would Vermette really be the difference on this team to push it from a non-lottery team to a the brink or in the playoffs?

I don't think so.

Lets be honest here I love Vermette and he is a very good player but he's not elite. If the asking price for Vermette is a 1st rounder than I just can't see Howson parting with that asset now. That's not to say he won't move it eventually but I think he waits until he sees exactly what he's got with this squad as is.

If Howson hadn't been active until now I could see taking the risk on dealing that pick now. However with 6 new faces plus Brassard & Voracek that's clearly not the case. Sure we can guess where the holes are but we won't know for sure until Hitch molds this group and season play kicks in.

For all we know perhaps when it shakes out we discover we need more defensive help than we need a top 6 player. Then what do we trade to fill that hole?

Also as the season rolls on perhaps a guy like Klesla becomes expendable if guys like Rome/Methot/Clitsome/Sigalet/Holden prove step up their games thus giving Howson more bullets to play with.

Keep in mind as well that Howson is going to need some ammunition at the trade deadline and there is nothing better than draft picks as currency at that time of the season. If he deals those picks now what does he use to add those players we were all so disappointed he didn't pick up last season?

We also can't forget that no matter what Howson or ownership says publicly there is a budget number that this team will stick to. I really believe that. That number is believed to be between 48 - 50 million. By my count Howson has 21 players signed to 44.335 million. Pencil Leclaire in for 4 mil and your already at 48+ mil.

Unless ownership ups the budget (don't hold your breath on that) Howson will have to swing a deal that will have money going out the other way. Quite frankly we don't have a lot of roster assets that 1. we are willing to part with and 2. the ones we would part with anyone would want.

I will say in ownerships defense that this is by far the most money they have ever committed to a Jackets roster and I fully believe that if this team is in the hunt come deadline time Howson will get the green light to go out and get what it takes to put this team in the playoffs.

For now though I think they take this group into camp and Howson saves his picks to use in-season if at all. If somethign falls into his lap sure he'll make a move but its unlikely. For me I'm okay with that plan.

Here are some more interesting CBJ
schedule points that I read here. This guy does a fantastic job of breaking down the schedule every season.

* The Jackets play the most back to backs of any team in the NHL at 20. St. Louis is second with 19. Colorado is lowest with only 8.

* The Jackets will travel the 13th most of any NHL team at 67,964 kilometers. That is an 833 kilometer increase over last season. The New York Islanders travel the least amount at 45,235.

* 12 of the top 15 that travel the most are in the West.

* Columbus is tied for 6th overall in the league in playing 3 games in 4 nights. They do that 18 times this season. Carolina has the most at 21.

* Columbus is tied for 23rd in the league in terms of longest home stand with 4 straight. Colorado is first with a league best 8 game home stand. Rangers get the shortest end of the stick only having a 3 game home stand.

* Columbus is tied for 6th with 13 other teams with the longest road trip with 6.

Not sure if anyone caught
the ESPYs last night (I had an adult hockey league game so I missed them) but our boy Nasher was up for "play of the year". He didn't win but by all accounts it was some really great exposure for Nash and the Jackets.

Thanks for the comments about the Commodore signing yesterday. Sounds like a good turnout and that he was, as we've all heard, a very fan friendly player. If the FSN Ohio Blueline was smart they'll have Union Blue Mike Commodore Robes and Flaming Red Afro Wigs ready to sell by opening night.

Oh and one fan's comments I particularly liked was that when he asked Commodore if he could "go after Tootoo on opening night?" Commodore's response was "Yeah, I'll be after him all night".

Discuss - Would you be willing to move this year's pick for a player like Antoine Vermette right now? Or do you hold onto it to perhaps use later in the year? Or not use it at all?


Sunday, July 20, 2008


Just a quick reminder that Mike Commodore is signing at the Tuttle Mall from 3 to 4.

This guy is going to be a lot of fun to have on our team over the next few years as you can tell by this picture.

So if your in the area be sure to stop by and welcome Commodore to Columbus!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday Round Up takes a look at the 10 reasons to get excited about 08-09 and guess what, the Jackets make the list:

Will the Columbus Blue Jackets make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history? If I’m a betting man, I say no. However, if they do, it will all come down to Ken Hitchcock’s coaching.

Jackets are definitely getting some attention this summer.

Here is another read about the Jackets moves this off season (thanks for pointing this out Skraut) from Dobber Hockey:

The Jackets will be much improved. Does that mean playoffs? Possibly, not in the tough West there are no guarantees (after Detroit and Dallas). Brassard, Huselius, and Jakub Voracek will inject some needed “sting” into the Jackets offence. Their overhauled defence is much deeper, and they have solid role players. Pascal Leclaire is for real; he is a very strong technical goalie. So can captain Nash carry this team to their first playoff birth?

Be sure to check out the rest of it. They have a very sweet picture of Nash - still loe those jerseys!!

THN's takes a look at where Filatov may play next season:

The Sudbury Wolves have drafted Nikita Filatov in this year’s CHA import draft, what do you think the chances of him actually playing for the Wolves in the 08-09 season?

Shawn Skiffington, Sudbury, Ont.


I’d put the chances at about 50-50. Columbus has a lot of skilled wingers right now – Rick Nash, Freddy Modin, Kristian Huselius and you can probably pencil in rookie Jakub Voracek as a top-sixer, too.

Assuming all is well, they may want to ease Filatov in to North American hockey by letting him run up some big numbers in Sudbury.

Filatov already speaks excellent English, so there won’t be as much of a culture shock and he’ll be surrounded by talent on the Wolves; Jared Staal, Eric O’Dell and incoming rookie John McFarland are all blue-chip prospects.

On the other hand, if Filatov comes to Blue Jackets camp in the fall and blows the doors off, coach Ken Hitchcock may just have to find a place for him. – Ryan Kennedy

Personally I'd give him about a 5% chance he'll play in Sudbury. I really think Howson will want to keep his options open with Filatov and have the ability to call him up throughout the season should he not make the team out of camp. This season is just to important and the Jackets just don't have enough skill to bury him in Juniors for a season.

The flip side is that if he were sent to Juniors that would not burn a year off his contract. With young studs like Brassard, Voracek and Russell coming up for contract renewals in less than 3 years buying that extra year of eligibility would be something to consider.

Howson will do what is best for the team. If Filatov comes to camp and clearly isn't ready then they'll ship to Junior. If he shows he has the ability to contribute now or sometime this year he'll most certainly play in the AHL if not the NHL right away.

Quite frankly I can't wait to see what this kid's got in camp.

The Dispatch continues its phenomenal coverage of the Jackes this off season today. Porztline is all over this Filatov IIHF suspension stuff. There is a nice spread here and some detailed blog posts here.

I won't get into all the nitty gritty details but essentially nobody seems to be worried about Filatov making the jump to North America and that the threat of suspension of international competitions won't deter him from chasing his dream to play in the NHL this year.

Not sure who else caught this one but Chicago has named 20 year old Jonathan Toews captain.

I realize that Toews is a great young player and that ultimately Chicago saw this kid as its leader for years to come but captain already? From an outside point of view it just seems rushed. The kid only has 1 year in the NHL and has plenty of growing in his game to do.

Hopefully it works out but remember Rick Nash has 5 years in this league and just now appears ready to shoulder the responsibility of being an NHL captain.

Finally a reader pointed out that Pittsburgh fans seem intent on invading Nationwide when the Penguins come to town on Thursday March 12th.

Well Jackets fans we can certainly return the favor and travel the 3 hours east to Pittsburgh on Friday February 6th!!

I know I'm planning on it.