directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: So what next?

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

So what next?

As we know, there were 4 major goals this offseason:

1. Extend Rick Nash - CHECK
2. Sign backup goaltender - CHECK
3. Sign 3rd line center - CHECK
4. Find puck moving d-man - ??

The Dispatch speculated on what Howson's plans may be to acquire that puck moving d-man:

"It's probably the hardest (position) because of the unique skill set," Howson said. "There just aren't many around because it takes time to develop, and you need to have certain skills: vision, patience, mobility and a good shot."

Eight days into the free-agent period, it appears unlikely that the Jackets will fill the hole on the open market with a high-salary player. Howson is exploring trade options -- he has a glut of wingers -- but cautions that he will remain patient and would be comfortable starting the season with the defensemen under contract.

Here's a good summary of the available d-men from

Out of that group I like Zubov, Morris, Seindenberg and MAB. However they all come with baggage:

Zubov - powerplay force but he's only played in a combined 56 games the past two seasons.

Morris - could easily help but could easily price himself out of Columbus' range as he'll make a case last year was an anomaly.

Seindenberg - career 30 point season last year but it was a contract year. His previous high was 15 points. The question is can he do it in a non-contract year?

MAB - you know what you get offensively but unfortunately he's swiss cheese in his own end.

The other option of course is to target a team against the cap or with a crowd on their blue line for a trade.

According to here are the teams right up against it along with my look at potential defensive puck-moving targets and opinion:

Chicago Blackhawks
Cap Hit: $61,359,374
Cap Space: -4,559,374

Potential Targets:
Cam Barker (3 years @ 3.08 per)
ASSETS: Possesses a hard, accurate shot from the point, which is especially effective on the power play. Can play physical, which scouts also love.
FLAWS: Must improve his skating and defensive-zone coverage in order to become a complete blueliner. Needs more game-to-game consistency.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Clearly the Blackhawks have to move a body or two and Barker would certainly be of interest to the Jackets if he were made available. He isn't the righty we'd love but he's a puck mover who is affordable with loads of potential. He notched 40 points in 68 games last year. It's pretty rare to see anything more than minor league trades between division rivals however.

Boston Bruins
Cap Hit:
Cap Space: 1,270,833

Potential Targets:

The Bruins have their big two studs in Chara and Wideman locked up for the next two seasons. After that there are some solid 3 to 5 type guys but nothing I could see the Jackets making a play for and quite frankly the Bruins have no reason to deal them as they need the depth.

Detroit Red Wings
Cap Hit: $57,378,989
Cap Space: -578,989

Potential Targets:

If by some longshot a Niklas Kronwall became available the Jackets would be intersted but that ain't happenin. The Wings have their team and are only likely to make minor tweaks to their depth. They have committed to their core and won't be shaking that up anytime soon short of a player like Lidstrom retiring (which I think is a fabulous idea!).

Like the 'hawks they are a division rival so the chance of anything major going down is very remote.

Philadelphia Flyers
Cap Hit: $54,972,916
Cap Space: 1,827,084

Potential Targets:
Brayden Coburn (1 @ 1.3)
ASSETS: Has the makings of an all-around performer along the blueline. Moves very well for a big man and owns untapped offensive potential.
FLAWS: Must learn to use his 6-5 frame more effectively. Is still a bit raw in the offensive zone. Needs to display more consistency.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Mathew Carle (3 @ 3.43)
ASSETS: Has outstanding offensive instincts. Loves to jump up into the play and act as a fourth forward. Skates very well and is usually in good position.
FLAWS: Needs to prove he can handle his own in physical contests. Must get stronger avoid making critical errors in the defensive zone.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Power play quarterback.

Coburn is the one guy I could see the Jackets jumping over each other to get to the phone on if he were made available. The Flyers are right up against it and now with Pronger in the fold for the next 7 seasons they may not have the space to resign this soon to be RFA.

Unfortunately they don't have a reason to move him now unless they get really desperate for cap space but there are other pieces they'd part with first. If Coburn is moved it won't be until next offseason.

Carle is an interesting option as he is definitely a PPQB and has a skill set the Jackets could use. The problem is his contract as he's signed the next 3 seasons at 3.43 mil per. Why trade for him when you could just go out and sign a simlar player in Marc-Andre Bergeron for less term and less dough?

Ottawa Senators
Cap Hit: $58,754,999
Cap Space: -1,954,999

Potential Targets:
Brian Lee (1 @ 1.27)
ASSETS: Has good size, excellent offensive instincts for a blueliner and all-around upside. Will score goals due to a big point shot.
FLAWS: Needs to get nastier in order to take full advantage of his big frame. Needs more work in terms of defensive-zone coverage.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Obviously Heatley is the talk of the town in Ottawa and once the Sens get him moved out that could potentially clear out a lot of cap space (depending on who they get in return).

Should they need to move a d-man I could see a lot of interest in Lee. He's a 6-2 200lb right handed shot who is slated to be a RFA next season. He's got a rocket from the point and will be a RFA next season. He's the kind of guy who could grow with this teams core and I'd love to see what a guy like Hitch could do with him. It's a long shot he'd be available and Howson would have to sweeten the pot to get him but he'd certainly be of interest.

They have other guys like a Kuba but they just resigned him and he's a key player in all situations for them - he's not goin anywhere.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Cap Hit: $53,843,333
Cap Space: 2,956,667

Potential Targets:

If a Kris Letang became available then no doubt Howson would jump in on that candy like a kid on Halloween. After coming off a cup winning season don't expect things to change much in Pittsburgh other than filling in some depth positions and that includes keeping their promising young puck-movers.

San Jose Sharks
Cap Hit:
Cap Space: 1,349,166

Potential Targets:
Christian Ehrhoff (2 @ 3.1 per)
ASSETS: Owns sound hockey sense and the ability to log big minutes on the ice. Can quarterback a power play or be used in defensive situations.
FLAWS: Doesn't handle big NHL forwards too well, so he needs to start making better use of his 6-2, 200-pound frame.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic (4 @ 3.1 per)
ASSETS: Rarely makes mistakes in the defensive zone. Is mature beyond his years and capable of playing in any game situation.
FLAWS: The jury is still out on his long-range offensive potential. Needs to fill out in order to see his responsibilities increase over time.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Ehrhoff put up 42 points in 77 games for the high charged Sharks this past season. There have been a lot of rumblings that their GM intends to shake up the core this offseason - Ehrhoff could be one of those pieces on the move.

Assuming Howson could move a wing back to offset a bit of that salary Ehrhoff could make a lot of sense. He's got 5 seasons in the NHL and has consistantly put up solid offensive numbers. His -12 for the best team in the league is a bit of a red flag however.

..and wouldn't you know it, as I was polishing off this post Puck-rakers has mentioned that indeed the Jackets have made a play for Ehrhoff with Chimera going back the other way.

Vlasci is a guy any GM would drool over. At just 22 years old he put up 36 points last year in 82 games. I can't see the Sharks moving him and if they did they would want hefty return -- which is a price I can't see Howson willing to pay.

Something else to consider is that the Sharks have 54.9 mil tied up in just 15 players. As with many teams on this list, something has to give.

Calgary Flames
Cap Hit: $53,697,500
Cap Space: 3,102,500

Potential Targets:
Dion Phaneuf (5 @ 6.5 per)
ASSETS: Hits everything that moves. Owns a big shot from the point and isn't shy about unleashing it. Displays all-around ability. Is the total physical package.
FLAWS: His defensive-zone coverage needs to improve in order to maximize his impact on the NHL. Can be a little too exhuberant at times and get out of position.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top pairing defenseman with tremendous offensive acumen.

Cory Sarich (3 @ 3.6 per)
ASSETS: Owns thunderous body-checking ability and defensive poise. Has the potential to dominate a game physically.
FLAWS: Has a tendency to overhandle the puck from time to time. Can also be a little too aggressive at times.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Phaneuf is a guy you love to hate but would love to have. The way Calgary talks is that they have room for both Bouwmeester and Phaneuf although I'm not quite sure I buy it. Regardless as much as I'd do back flips if he were a Jacket with Nasher locked up long term there is just no way Howson gives up the assets or takes on that kind of salary -- it just does not fit the "plan".

I threw Sarich in there as he's a top 4 guy that could be expendable. The Jackets have too many Sarich types in the fold already and at 3.6 over the next 3 he doesn't make a whole lota sense.

Edmonton Oilers
Cap Hit: $50,858,333
Cap Space: 5,941,667

Potential Targets:
Denis Grebeshkov (RFA)
ASSETS: Is well rounded and intelligent. Isn't shy about laying on the body and displays untapped offensive potential. Can log plenty of ice time.
FLAWS: Must prove capable of hanging with power forwards in the pros. Must avoid trying to do too much.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six defenseman.

Tom Gilbert (5 @ 4 per)
ASSETS: Moves the puck quickly and efficiently out of the defensive zone, and can also provide his team with offense. Plays a smooth brand of defense.
FLAWS: Isn't physical at all for a 6-3, 210 pounder, which limits his overall effectiveness in the defensive zone.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Solid offensive defenseman with sound all-around instincts.

Edmonton's situation will strongly depend on who else they can add offensively. They are said to be hot and heavy in their pursuit of Heatley which depending on who they send the other way may not have the room to resign a Grebeshkov.

Grebeshkov is a guy who I'd personally love for Howson to add. He's a 25 year old who put up 7g, 23a for 39p in 72 games last season. He's got NHL size at 6ft 209lbs and is a player who could really compliment the Jackets backend and would be given an even bigger role on special teams.

I'm not gonna lie, I dream about Gilbert firing one-timers with his right handed shot on our PP under the lights of Nationwide Arena on a cold night in January. That to me is poetry! Unfortunately that is probably all the further it will get.

Gilbert is a 26 year old who is signed for the next 5 seasons at 4 mil per. If his skill set became available he is the type of player Howson would have to pursue. That salary is incredibly reasonable for a player who put up 5g, 40a for 45p in 82 games last season and hasn't even hit his prime yet. He would be a long term solution to our backend puck moving problems but it would cost him.

Edmonton is loaded on their backend. They want more scoring up front and have pieces on the backend to dangle. Also remember Howson's Oil connection and familiarity with all of these players.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Cap Hit: $52,533,333
Cap Space: 4,266,667

Potential Targets:
Tomas Kaberle (2 @ 4.25)
ASSETS: Possesses tremendous hockey smarts and the ability to find his teammates with excellent passes. A swift skater, he loves to join the attack. Defends well.
FLAWS: Still makes occasional mistakes when pinching in. Could use more strength to better handle big NHL forwards. Doesn't shoot enough on the power play.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Premier puck-moving defenseman.

Mike Van Ryn (1 @ 2.9)
ASSETS: Moves the puck well up the ice, has a good point shot and is always willing to dish out punishment.
FLAWS: Needs to become more assertive on offense, since he has the talent to produce big numbers.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Toronto has a huge log jam on the backend to the point where their GM has announced that he'd like to parlay a defensemen into a forward. Sounds like a match made in heaven for the Jackets right?

Not so fast.

Their biggest trading chip is a Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle would be an absolute dream for the Jackets as he's exactly what they could use on the blueline. The problem of course is the price it would take to acquire him. Toronto would most certainly want a young stud in the likes of a Filatov/Brassard/Voracek which won't happen.

Van Ryn, as has been mentioned in this space before, is a more likely target. He put up 3g, 8a for 11p in 27g before getting injured. The problem with Van Ryn is of course his injuries. Depending on how things play out Howson could roll the dice as Van Ryn is in the final year of his contract.

That is just a sample. The NHL trade market is always a dynamic evolving beast. One move can have domino effect on many others. One player who was thought not to be available 5 minutes ago all of sudden is.

Howson has made it crystal clear he wants to upgrade the blueline but will not make a move just to make it. Still I just can't see the Jackets heading into next season without an upgrade of the offensive variety to help that abysmal powerplay. Its the lone remaining item to to check off his list this offseason.

Howson will be patient but I just can't see him letting that box go un-marked before the 08-09 season.



Mase1 said...


Your best, if not one of your best, yet...Epic!

Thanks for the incredible piece and info!

cbjbuckeye27 said...

Wow. Excellent post.

What about Babchuk from Carolina? RFA who is apparently nowhere close to resigning. The guy has a YouTube highlight reel that has made a lot of posters over at HF giddy.

LTL said...

Babchuk could certainly be an option. I'm not quite as high on him as some folks over there.

I also don't get why Carolina would part with a defensemen who notched 16g for them if he was all that. They are a budget team like us so perhaps its just a numbers game.

He does have one hell of a right handed shot though.

I'm sure he's on Howson's list somewhere.


LTL said...

Oh.. and thanks for the great feedback guys! Always appreciated!


BZArcher said...

Excellent write-up, LTL!

I think that you hit the nail on the head with Babchuk & Carolina - They're a budget team, and it's looking like he may not fit into their budget picture. (Thought I am a little surprised Babchuk didn't file for salary arbitration if that was the case?)

As much as I'd love to hear Howson announcing that he's sewn something up in the next week or two, I'm starting to wonder if we'll hear much out of Nationwide before training camp opens. It seems like he may let teams stew under the hot summer sun for awhile.

eplagge said...

Yep time is on our side.. personally I have always liked the Sharks Defensemen.. so let's see what happens..

CraigPedersen said...

Call me crazy but a lot of these powerplay specialists do not have better numbers than Tyutin did. With another year of seasoning, Tyutin and Russ will be ready to be bigger offensive forces, and we can save the $ for our own young guys.

We have a reasonable group of D-men. If Howson can steal someone from an over the cap team for say Modin, then great. But giving up Chimmer seems like a really bad idea to me.

Bruce said...

For any trade with a team that is over the cap, in order to get the player we want, we are going to have to take on an additional player or two with a short term (1-2 years) high cap hit. Like we did with Backman last year to get Tyutin. We may also send back a young prospect or player with a low cap impact.

Stephen said...

The comment I heard/read about Brassard and Vorcheck (I think) playing point (in Juniors) was interesting. They may be looking at options without making a desperation move.