directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: And then there was one..

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And then there was one..

With announcement that Aaron Rome has signed a 1 year 2-way deal that leaves just one key restricted free agent left to sign.

Yep you guessed it, Pascal Leclaire.

First to Rome. Rome got in 17 NHL games last season and for better or worse he was our best defensemen on some nights. That's not a knock on Rome per se but more of a statement in terms of exactly where this team was at with personnel with injuries, trades and under performing players.

It appears the Jackets may be willing to carry 8 defensemen next year. If that indeed ends up being the case that puts Rome right in the mix:

Locks: Commodore, Tyutin, Hejda, Klesla, Backman, Tollefsen * Russell (yes I don't see how Russell is not on this team next year - they absolutley need his ability to move the puck)

In The Running for 8th Spot: Rome, Methot, Clitsome

I think Rome has the inside track based on his performance last year as he played good solid smart hockey and wasn't afraid to mix it up. Methot is a big strong defensive d-man who doesn't shy away from contact but doesn't offer much offensively either. I know the coaches absolutely loved Clitsome in camp and are very interested to see what he can do against men -- remember he spent 4 years in college and he should stand out in prospect camp as he's older. I will say in his defense that he also stood out in camp last off season.

Unless Clitsome absolutely blows the other two out of the rink I think he starts in the year in the AHL -- 1. because he just turned pro and could use the seasoning and 2. he's waiver in-eligible. Where it gets really tricky is Methot and Rome -- both are waiver eligible so unless injuries start mounting up the Jackets could find themselves having to expose one on the wire as they send him down.

Certainly a storyline to follow in camp this year.

As far as Pascal the latest is that his agent Don Meehan has sent a counter-proposal back to Howson. The thought is that they have agreed to a 3 year term and now its a question of money.

I wouldn't panic on this one Jacket fans. Howson will match any offer that may come in and quite frankly this negotiation was always going to be a difficult one to work out. Not because both sides don't want it to work out but because of the complications.

To break it down Leclaire has had one good season which was last year yet he still battled injuries. The most he's ever played in an NHL season is 54 games.

From the Leclaire camp they are selling that he finished in the top 10 of every major statistical goaltending category other than starts and wins thus he should paid as such. From Howson's camp they are selling that Leclaire has only played at a top 10 goalie level once and still only managed to play in a career best 54 games.

You can't pay him like a top 10 goalie. You also can't pay him like a bottom 20.

So who are his comparables?

Leclaire is 26 who played in 54 games, had a 2.25GAA, .919 Save% and 24 wins.

Leclaire's camp is probably looking at a guy like Huet who signed a 5 year 22.5 million dollar deal. He's 32, had a 2.32 GAA, .920 Save%, 32 wins and played in 52 games. He has a total of 183 starts over 5 NHL seasons.

Howson and co. are probably looking at a guy like Dan Ellis who had one good season last year after spending 4 seasons in the minors. Ellis is 28 who played in 48 games had a 2.34 GAA, .924 Save% and 23 wins. He will make 1.5 million next year and 2 million the following.

Where does Leclaire slide between those two? That is exactly what they are trying to work out now.

By all accounts the negotiations are cordial and you have to think that the financial gap is closing every time one of these counter-proposals are made.

I have no doubt Leclaire will get done and will be a Blue Jacket this coming season.

More Filatov. According to TSN Nikita Filatov's contract is one of several under investigation by the IIFH:

The International Ice Hockey Federation has suspended Alexander Radulov while they investigate the details of his transfer to the newly formed Russian KHL.

As well, the transfer of five other players - Nikita Filatov, Thomas Mojzis, Jason Krog, Fedor Fedorov and Viktor Tikhonov - is also being investigated by the governing body.

"Until this investigation has come to its final conclusion and the IIHF has rendered its decisions, all concerned players will be suspended from international transfers and competitions," read a statement from the IIHF on Friday.

"We hope that this can be resolved amicably and in a timely manner," said IIHF President Rene Fasel. "It is unfortunate that we are already facing such difficulties after the progress that was made last week. I am hoping that all sides can come to a solution."

Filatov may have to sacrifice his eligibility for international competitions if he wants to make the jump to North America this season. Hopefully that isn't the case.

I certainly don't see this story going away anytime soon. takes a look at a much more competitive Western Conference from a fantasy perspective:

Columbus Blue Jackets – Signed forwards Kristian Huselius and Craig MacDonald, and traded for left wing Raffi Torres and defensemen Christian Backman and Fedor Tyutin. I like the addition of Huselius, an underappreciated scorer who is 59-84-143 the last two seasons. Just as he did in Calgary with Jarome Iginla, he'll probably line up next to a premier right wing, this time Rick Nash. Torres was beset with injuries in 2007-08 and limited to 11 points in 32 games. A two-time 20-goal scorer, he will be a project for coach Ken Hitchcock. MacDonald has no fantasy value, and Tyutin and Backman are useless in fantasy.

I think this writer is a little to quick to disregard both Backman and Tyutin. Both haven't had breakout years offensively but both haven't been given a "Hainsey" like role on the PP either. I easily see one of Tyutin/Backman/Russell emerging from this coming season with similar stats to Hollywood. I think all three will have career years offensively as well.

Update: Reports out of Buffalo are that Ryan Miller has signed a 5 year 31.25 million dollar deal. That averages out to 6.25 per season. That will most definitely have an impact on Leclair's negotiation although Miller has had fairly consistant back to back NHL seasons with over 63 games played in each.

Also I forgot to metion but Mike Commodore will be at the Tuttle Mall this Sunday from 3-4 signing autographs. Fans are gonna love this guy so if your in the area or looking for something to do lets make him feel welcome to our city!

Discuss - any worries out there that Leclaire won't get done?



Anonymous said...

No, not worried in the least about Leclaire.

Douglas said...

Not really worried about Leclaire... over on other boards, I've been saying basically the same thing that you just did -- Howson will match any offer that comes in, and I don't expect any offers to come in. People are freaking out and saying "just sign Pazzy now," but we ain't the NY Yankees, folks... we've got a budget to work with here.

Neal said...

LTL, as you clearly pointed out, this is a difficult contract b/c of the lack of a recent comparable. Both sides are doing what they should, trying to get the best deal for the organization and the client. As long as the talks remain peaceful I see no reason to worry.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand the hype around Russell... He is undersized to the point that he gets pushed off the puck everywhere on the ice and can't make strong defensive plays in front of the net or in the corners. He does not have the "puck-moving" ability we so clearly want - I would love to see a "give-aways" stat for his season last year; his "end-to-end" (for Russell, read: own blue line to center ice) rushes resulted in him giving up the puck and an odd man rush as he put himself out of position. I did not see him take any shots, nor was he able to keep the puck in the offensive zone as opposing forward powered through him at the blue line, so I don't see him with offensive ability. This all of course is without mentioning the all important "nerves" element. Of course Russell was nervous during this season because it was his first one spending some real time in the NHL, and this may have caused some problems, but I just don't see him with the ability to be our PP QB or even in our top 6 D-men (there is no way he would make other NHL teams' rosters).

Before everyone starts bashing me for discussing my apprehensions about naming Russell our hero, I'd just like to say that I support the Jackets and I believe they have improved significantly this summer. Whether or not it is enough to make the playoffs is unclear as other teams in our division and our conference have also improved.

DJ Davy B said...

Thats quite the dissertation in the comments on Russel. He'll be fine when asked to do a 3rd pair job. Pazzy will eventually sign and all will be well. Folks its that time of year where we become optimistic. At least this time we don't have 4th line guys playing on the 1st line etc. I am now willing to give this group a chance. A big change in my feeling from 3 weeks ago...

colin said...

wow i really dont understand how you cant see the POTENTIAL in russel. no doubt hes undersized but i strongly beleive he will be a top dman one day as he puts on muscle as well as gains more confidence. russel can move the puck its that simple. is he the puck moving defensemen we so badly need thats going to run the PP now? no. its still to be seen if russel will make the team this year, but i think if he played one season in syracuse while playing some on the jackets this could be very beneficial. what im trying to say is that russel to me is a very, very promising player. i think he will be a great player for the jackets but i dont know if it will be this year.

Max said...

I wish Meehan was more available to talk with Howson. It seems like earlier in the process they were meeting to decide when they should meet next. That was irritating. He'll get signed, maybe the day before camp, but he'll get signed. Asa for Filatov, I think Radulov is a big reason the IIHF is looking at this. A day after the two leagues said they wouldn't poach players, the KHL poaches a player. I'm kind of confused about why the league hasn't been bitching up a storm and asking for outrageous sums of money for the transfer...

LTL said...

Anonymous - thanks for the post on Russell. Some solid points.

Just to rebute a bit you have to remember this kid was just a rookie last year -- one that made the jump straight from Junior which many defensemen do not do.

Here is an interesting stat on Russell for ya:

Kris Russell:
GP67 2G 8A -12

Jack Johnson:
GP74 3G 8A -19

I do understand your apprehension about his size -- in fact that is the reason we got him the 3rd round.

The kid has played through and exceeded that challenge at every level and from what I've seen he can make it work at the NHL level as well.

That said reports out of camp are that he's already added at least 10 pounds to his frame and with a year under his belt he's only going to get better.

No he won't be a crease clearer or throw thunderous hits and that's not what Hitch will use him for but this kid can skate the wind, has an incredible active stick, avoid hits, can skate the puck out of trouble and has tremendous hockey sense.

Sure he needs to continue to develop and take a step from last year but really his rookie season wasn't a hole lot different than most players who break into this league - in fact in a lot of cases it was better.

I also looked up that stat for you -- Russell had 12 giveaways last season which was 5th on the team defensively. Hainsey led all d-men with 33 giveaways.

He's got some work to do but I really believe this kid is going to improve on last year's numbers and really help this team in a well defined role from the coaching staff.


markislander said...

I have to agree with LTL on this one, Russell is going to grow an only get better(I Hope} it was his rookie season so you can"t expect huge numbers from him some guys break out and some don"t,we are waiting for one of thoes guys to happen.So lets hope this is the year we are way over due And for Leclaire not worried no one will make a pitch for him they will get the deal done.

Anonymous said...

Russell will be on the jackets team this year as a 3rd pairing guy. I saw him up close and personal during the week of the prospect camp and he no longer looks like 'the stick boy'. I watched he and the rest of the pros skate and he doesn't even look like a small player anymore, just a player.

This kid has tremendous skating, speed and smarts and is an asset that the jackets are fortunate to have found in the 3rd round.

Russell has been small at every level and is accustomed to playing vs. guys who he lends 30+lbs to and he has excelled at every level as well.

His quickness and smarts allows him to get out of the way from the big hits. I worried about him constantly last year about getting creamed, but I don't recall him getting laid out even once. He has perfected his knack for getting out of the way.

We have heard Hitchcock rave about his stick positioning and his ability to check a player because of near perfect technique. For the guy to come straight out of jr. (and especially a d man) and be able to even hang in the league is quite remarkable.

He will be played in more appropriate situations this year (since our d-core is about 100x better) and will be put in more situations that he will find success.

He is never going to be a basher, but neither was the diminutive Rafalski yet he has had quite a successful NHL career wouldn't you agree?

mike said...

Nice to see the talks with LeClaire sound like it is getting close to being resolved.  Btw, thanks for the heads-up on Commodore being in C-bus, I will definitely be making the trip from Newark to Tuttle!

Pyle said...

I recommend checking out "The Pens Blog" they seem to be planning an invasion of Nationwide on March 12th I believe when Sid comes to town...

Buy your tickets now!

DRU said...

I think the main hold up in the Leclaire talks is Don Meehan. The guy is the biggest agent in the NHL and has over 100 players to deal with. He's busy and he knows that Leclaire and Howson are sure to sign so there's no rush. Simple as that.

Also, I think Russell is going to be a great, great player on this team for a long time to come. Hitch loves him--I'm sold.