Well its finally here Jacket fans. Free Agency. The time for overpayment and renewed hopes.
The difference between this year and last - the Jackets should actually be players with close to 15 million to spend.
The question is will they be able to get players?
The competition will be fierce with the likes of Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Atlanta, New Jersey, NY Rangers and Montreal expected to be major players. Boston, NY Islanders, Minnesotra, Ottawa and Carolina figure to be active as well.
This is Scott Howson's day to make his mark. He's had a full season to evaluate this team, trade aging vets, let bad contracts expire (or in Duvie Westcott's case actually buy out a contract) and lay down a new organizational foundation.
The pressure is most certainly on.
Up to this point Howson has made mostly minor moves building depth, especially defensively, selling off veterans via trade who no longer fit the long term plans of this organization and running two drafts.
To this day his boldest moves have been re-signing Jan Hejda to a 3 year deal and trading the 1st he acquired for Adam Foote for RJ Umberger.
If the Jackets want to make the playoffs he will need to be bolder than that.
This team doesn't need to blow the majority of their free agent dollars on guys like Campbell or Hossa - although he couldn't use those two? Unfortunately this team needs much more than just one All Star. What they need are solid NHL bodies in or approaching their prime who can fit the style of team Howson and Hitch are building.
A couple of defenders - preferably of the puck moving variets, a center and perhaps a winger. That's the wish list.
Sure it would be nice if Howson had another year to build but that ship sailed with MacLean. While he certainly doesn't have to sell the farm for now he must acquire some solid NHL talent for Hitch to work with.
...and although this UFA class lacks top end talent it does have a pretty solid group of NHL talent that can help us.
This team must make the playoffs next season or Nationwide Arena could be renamed Nationdied Arena (a.k.a "The Morgue").
The Dispatch gave us some names today to keep a look out for. At the top of that list will be Brendan Morrison and Wade Redden. If Howson can land one of these two (or both) early in free agency then this thing could snowball. If he misses out then it could be a very long day for Jacket fans.
This team is due for some breaks. They have the money. They have the youth, the facilities the management and coaching. I don't care what anyone says - Columbus is a great city especially for players with families which a lot of UFAs have - as a military brat who has lived just about everywhere I know this to be true. Now they just to sell some solid NHLers on this market and the potential of this team to fill the roster gaps while the future bakes.
Honestly I really want this guy to succeed tomorrow because well, I like him. I like the way he's building the team thus far and I think he's good for this market. He's certainly got his work cut out for him.
So buckle up Jacket fans as this could be a bumpy ride.
I'll be "Live Free Agent Blogging" most of the day tomorrow.-LTL