directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Oh what a night!

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Oh what a night!

Whew...where to start? about that Scott Howson? No he didn't fill every hole and every need but did he ever make us a better more competitve team the last two days.

The man has a plan. That plan in a nutshell was to add competitive players while in the process shoring up our defense, offense and shipping out players who didn't fit the direction of this team.

Check, check and check.

To summarize:

In: Umberger, Torres, Commodore, Tyutin, Backman, Huselius
Out: 19th pick, Brule, Zherdev, Fritsche, Hainsey

That's 6 new faces ladies and gentlemen.

The moves:

1. Jackets acquire center RJ Umberger + 4th for 19th pick + 3rd
This has been hashed out quite a bit already but with Umberger we gain desperately needed help down the middle. RJ is a 26 year old 6'2" 200lb center who scored 50 points last season including 37 assists. Umberger will slot into the top 6 spot. The 19th pick was acquired in the Foote deal so essentially this was Foote for Umberger and swap of picks. RJ is an RFA that will need signed.

2. Jackets acquire winger Raffi Torres for Gilbert Brule
The Jackets gain a top 6 forward who can play left or right wing. Torres is a 26 year old 2126lb winger who has put up two 20+ goal season including 27 in 2005 season. He had a rough year last year with an ACL injury that limited him to just 31 games. The Jackets see him as physical winger who can change games with scoring or by hitting. He's signed to two more years at an average cap hit of 2/5 million. In return the Jackets gave up a former #1 pick in Brule who has had his ups and downs in Columbus and could use a fresh start. Torres figures to play a wing on the 2nd line.

3. Jackets sign defensemen Mike Commodore to a 5 year 18.75 million dollar deal.
Jackets nab one of their top 2 targets in Commodore. Commodore is a physical stay at home d-men who does not take nights off. He's a right handed shot who figures to play 22+ minutes a night against the other teams top lines. He is also the kind of player who isn't afraid to stick up for teammates and is a great locker room presence. He sounds very excited about his role in Columbus. The Jackets overpaid for Commodore but that's the name of the game in free agency. He'll be a top 4 d-man here.

4. Jackets acquire Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman for Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche
The big blockbuster of the day. Its no secret the Jackets needed help on the backend even after the addition of Commodore. They needed puck-movers. The got two of them in Tyutin and Backman. Tyutin is the key to this deal for the Jackets. He's a 24 year old defensemen who is above average in every facet of the position. He can score, hit, block shots and is very poised with the puck. He's also signed to a tremendous 4 year deal that kicks in this season. He will figure into the top 4 of the defense and see time in every situation. He was the key to this deal.

Backman is a 28 year old d-men who will help the Jackets transition the puck. He has offensive upside but has yet to show his potential only reaching a high of 18 points in his 5 NHL season career. Backman figures to play in the 3rd pairing and will see time on the PP - probably 2nd unit. He's got 1 year left on his deal at 3.4 milllion.

In return the Jackets gave up 2003 #4 overall pick Nik Zherdev. Zherdev's story is well publicized throughout Columbus. As I mentioned earlier the Jackets love his talent but hate his competitiveness. He is only signed for 1 more season at 3.25 million. Zherdev inconsistancy and disconnection towards his teammates ultimately led to the Jackets moving in a new direction. Dan Fritsche is a 2003 2nd round pick who is a guy that worked hard every night and is a committed professional. At the end of the day there just was no longer room for Fritsche in this lineup so he was moved.

5. Jackets sign Kristian "juice" Huselius to a 4 year 19 million dollar deal
With Zherdev and his 61 points moved for Tyutin, Hueselius and his 66 points became a hot target to fill the void. The Jackets managed to get their man. Huselius figures to play on the opposite wing with Rick Nash. His most effective play came in Calgary when he rode shotgun with Jerome Iginla. Huselius is a fantastic stick handler and playmaker who sees he ice very well. He should be able to create space for Nash and get him the puck. He's very good on the PP and get this -- shootouts! He's also underrated defensively. He's not going to take over games but paired with a guy like Nash he should be an effective player. The biggest knocks on him are his streaky point scoring and he's not a very physical player. He adds much needed skill to the lineup after Zherdev's departure. At 29 Huselius will be 32 when his deal expires.

Projected lineup as of today:

Nash Umberger Huselius
Modin Brassard Torres
Murray Novotny Boll
Chimera Malhotra Voracek

Commodore Hejda
Tyutin Klesla


I think the Jackets are going to run with Brassard at the #2 hole. Look for one more forward to be acquired - perhaps re-signing Peca - to fill that 3 hole.

This lineup, while not perfect, is leaps and bounds better than we were. Its a well rounded lineup that brings you more scoring, hitting, puck movement and competitiveness. The defense with the additions of Commodore/Tyutin/Backman give you desperately needed size and sandpaper. All 3 players are better puck movers than what we had albeit it does lack the pure offensive flare that we had hoped to acquire.

For the PP there are a lot of options here. Tyutin and Russell figure to be the first unit PP d-men. Brassard also may be counting on to run the point of the PP. A combo of Backman, Klesla and Commodore would most likely be used on the 2nd unit. Lots of options.

For the PK it will be Commodore and Hejda as the #1 shutdown pair. Klesla and Tyutin figure to be the 2nd unit PKers with perhaps Tollefesen (if he's in the lineup) and Backman rotated in.

..and talk about size -- to steal these stats from a poster who put this in the comments (thanks anonymous!):

Nash: 6'4 218
Boll 6'2" 206
Chimera 6'2" 216
Malhotra 6' 2" 21
Modin 6' 4" 217
Murray 6' 2" 210
Novotny 6' 3" 209
Torres 6' 0" 215
Umberger 6' 2" 200

Tyutin 6'3" 210lbs.
Backman 6'4" 210lbs.
Klesla 6'3" 220lbs.
Hejda 6'3" 230lbs.
Commodore 6'5" 230lbs.
Rome 6'1" 205lbs.
Tollefsen 6'2" 210lbs.
Methot 6'2" 200lbs.

Now of course this lineup isn't perfect. We still don't have that #1 center and its looking like the dice we are going to roll will be on Brassard in that #2 hole. We also don't have that true #1 undisputed offensive d-man to run the PP.

What we do have now is a team and an identity. Hitch has plenty of molding to do of course but its clear the direction we are headed is a big strong checking team who is one difficult team to play against. A team that has character and the ability to play the same consistant hockey night in and night out.

We also can't forget the rookie impact. Voracek may be on the 4th line starting out the year but he could quickly move up the lineup. Filatov is a guy who could step in at camp and just force his way right on this team with no Z to pick up bad habits from!

The good news is that those guys are not going to be counted on. The biggest risk here is Brassard and heck, you can't rule out Howson making another move for a top 6 center.

Still some work to do especially in getting Leclaire and Umberger under contract which I fully expect to occur.

All in all I'm very pleased with the make over of this team. I think Howson did a good job filling the massive holes our lineup with good young players who can help now and later. He put his ass on the line the past few days in terms of his legacy as a GM and I think he scored. Wins will be the ultimate decider but these aren't Footes and Fedorovs he acquired here. This is a good young lineup that will battle every night for wins and for one another.

As one poster commented the stench from this roster has been cleared.

We also can't forget Howson did this while still retaining that 6th overall pick and just about all of the depth in our system -- that's extremely important.

I tell ya - my favorite move is getting Tyutin. I really think this guy is going to be really good player for us and his contract is so sweet.

Is it a playoff team? With Hitch leading this group I really think for the first time we've got a helluva chance. If some our rookies like Brassard and Voracek can step up and contribute then I really like our chances.

- what's your reaction after day 2?



Sean said...

By the time I got home from work to read in about the NY trade, I was really excited about the deal. Huselius last night was some delicious icing on the cake and may be another example of the perception of the team changing in the league, at least for the players. How much can we believe that the signing of guys like Commodore is showing Huselius how much we want to compete.

The Dispatch is still reporting that Howson wants to find the #1 center, which means he's got to be thinking trade at this point. Personally, I would love to see Peca in the #3 roll and he'd be the only little guy on the team. This was a very, very good day for the organization!

Neal said...

I love that GMSH was bold! Am I sure what he's done is going work? Nope, but I love that he wasn't satisfied with sitting back and hoping guys like Z, Parma and Hollywood would take the next step. We're a bigger, more experienced, more physical team. Dare I say, might we actually be able to match up against Nashville this year???

This is now firmly Howson team. I'm excited! When is opening night?

Anonymous said...

I think Scott et al did a hell of a job in maximizing what he had to work with.

Essentially he had 13 million to work with (after RJ and Leclaire eat up 7 million or so with their signings) and with that 13 million we have added 5 quality, just reaching or in their prime, players. 5 big, strong, competitive, character players--that is unheard of!

No, Tyutin isn't Redden or Campbell, but he could turn into one. Both of these guys took 2nd fiddle to Rozival and Straka on the pp last year and still managed some decent points. Hainsey NEVER MISSED a pp and, sure he produced decent numbers, but not outstanding--nothing that I would spend nearly 5 million a year for. They are both young enough to learn a lot and immediately have bigger roles on our team.

I think all things happen for a reason, and although I would like to have seen Morrison beside Nash, Huselius is a hell of an alternative. We now have two other scoring threats on that top line with Nasher that teams will have to think about.

We are going to be one hell of a team to play against.

Matt said...

I'm honestly really, really excited, and the more I think about what this team could look like coming out of training camp, the more excited I get.

Howson, I apologize for doubting you, and I apologize for being concerned about your early inactivity this offseason. For someone who was concerned about his bullets at the draft, it feels like you came out guns blazing and did some real nice shootin', Tex.

Anonymous said...

Reading posts around the web, it seems that everyone thinks that the Zherdev deal was a steal for the Rangers. I guess these guys don't know the personality and effort issues Z presents. If the Rangers can alter Z's personality I think they have obtained a big steal, but that is a big IF. Fritsche has been average except for his energy level.

Furthermore doing some research Backman is a solid D, middle of the pack kind of guy. While Fedor T. seems to be a very well rounded D who's best years are ahead of him. I guess he is widely expected to be a top 4 perhaps top 2 defenseman. I guess my only concern is that I am not convinced we have the players to run a good PP from the blueline... I guess we will find out..

Tom said...

The Jackets can now be a bunch of BAAAD MEN. Big, burly guys who will punish those who dare come inside the Blue Line.

Considering the whiz kids in Chicago, and the all-star lineup in Detroit....this is gonna be fun.

Rick said...

LTL, remember what I told you at the Draft Party? It's Murphys' Law...I'm going to miss the whole season (overseas) so you know they are going to be a good team. Howson made some really great moves in the last month. I'm super excited about the upcoming season!

Also, congrats to you for getting your picture in the 07-08 CBJ Yearbook.

Anonymous said...

We aren't going to have people to run the pp?????????????????

Tyutin, Backman, Russell, Brassard are decent places to start! Commodore also played 2nd pp unit with Carolina.

We have more options now than ever before. Tyutin and Backman both played 2nd fiddle to Rosival and Straka for pp time in ny and still put up points. People are comparing Hainsey's pp's to these guys but don't forget, Hainsey saw all the pp time in the world!

Scott quietly went along and made this team one hell of a lot better.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked when I saw that Z had been traded. Surely Howson had something else to announce, and it was Huselius. This team has a much different identity. The D looks to be way better, time will tell. If guys come into camp healthy (Torres, Modin et al) The Jackets will be one tough team. I hope we can create more offense than last year. I really like the looks of it so far. Not. having a #1 C, and a true puck moving defenseman hopefully wont bite us. I cant wait for the puck to drop in October.