directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: What if?

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Friday, August 21, 2009

What if?

This is a new category of posts I'll be starting and addressing every once in a while.

My first "what if?"

What if the Blue Jackets had completed the trade for Brad Richards?

Let's set the scene.

It was late in February 2008 and the Jackets for the first time in their existence were still in the playoff picture.

It was Scott Howson's first season as Blue Jackets GM.

It was also Ken Hitchcock's first full season as Blue Jackets Head Coach. As we were all aware, Ken Hitchcock had never missed the playoffs with a full season to work with in the NHL.

Fans were restless and had certainly grown tired off all the losing.

Sergei Fedorov was not the answer for Nash at center so the search to fill that void continued.

The March trade deadline was right around the corner. Would a couple of big contracts expiring in Adam Foote and Sergei Fedorov and the chance for the Jackets to remake their roster in the offseason make the them buyers or sellers?

Behind the scenes there were all kinds of rumblings that Tampa was ordered to slash payroll and that Richards was on the block. The Jackets were said to be right in the mix to finally fill that #1 center void and get a true playmaker for the franchise.

At the time of the trade discussions Brad Richards had 3 years left on his deal at 7.8 million per. He also had a no trade clause but word was that Columbus was one of the teams he would be willing to waive it for.

This was Howson's chance to make his splash and he made an aggressive pitch offering up Dan Fritsche, OK Tollefsen and Gilbert Brule. The biggest chip he was offering though was taking that mountain of a contract off of Tampa's hands and giving them budget relief.

The Jackets ultimately ended up losing out on this opportunity to the Dallas Stars who sent backup goalie Mike Smith, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpren plus a 5th round pick in exchange for Richards and starting Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist.

The deal breaker for Howson was said to be that Tampa wanted Steve Mason included in any deal.

Opportunity lost right?

So back to the "what if". What if the Jackets beat out Tampa and included Mason and completed that deal? What are the dominoes?

On the positive side they would have certainly found Rick Nash his center. Perhaps the Jackets don't become sellers at the deadline and make a push for the playoffs and maybe squeak in and win a game or two. That would have most definitely been a positive PR push for a team and it's fans that had known nothing but losing up to that point.

Maybe last year they have an even better season? Maybe Richards stays healthy all year (he only played in 56 games for the Stars after suffering a broken right wrist and broken left hand). Perhaps while riding shotgun next to Richards Nash notches 50 goals? I certainly doubt the PP would have been 30th in the league.

..but knowing what we know now would that trade have been worth it? What are the potential negative dominoes if that trade is made?

First off the Jackets wouldn't have been in a position to draft Nikita Filatov as they would have finished with a better record than 6th worst in the league.

I believe they trade Fedorov regardless but I'm not sure if the Adam Foote scenario would have played out like it did. Maybe he signs and the Jackets don't get that #1 pick they use to trade for heart and soul player RJ Umberger.

Even if Fedorov and Foote stayed off the books the 7.8 million that Richards soaked up would most certainly mean that the Jackets only have the budget room to land one of Kristian Huselius or Mike Commodore.

Last but not least Steve Mason is not a Calder Trophy winner wearing the union blue. It also means Leclaire is still the starter and the Jackets likely don't have the ammunition to make the trade for Vermette.

Of course there are tons of variables to play with like instead of Filatov maybe the Jackets end up with Tyler Myers who is looking like he'll be a stud. We could play this game all day but I'll leave you with this -- which hypothetical lineup is more attractive:

Lineup A:
Nash (7.0) Richards (7.8) Voracek (.875)
Modin (3.5) Brassard (.765) Torres (2.75)
Chimera (1.875) Pahlsson (2.65) Boll (.550)
Dorsett (.510) Murray (.625) Picard (.550)
Spare (.600)

Commodore (3.8) Hejda (2.0)
Tyutin (2.7) Klesla (2.25)
Russell (.525) Methot (.975)

Leclaire (3.8)
Garon (1.2)

TOTAL: 47.3 million

Lineup B:
Huselius (4.75) Brassard (.765) Nash (7.0)
Umberger (3.5) Vermette (3.0) Voracek (.875)
Modin (3.5) Pahlsson (2.65) Torres (2.75)
Chimera (1.875) Dorsett (.510) Boll (.550)
Filatov (.875) Murray (.625)
*Filatov fits into the starting lineup somewhere just haven't figured out where yet

Commodore (3.8) Hejda (2.0)
Tyutin (2.7) Klesla (2.25)
Russell (.525) Methot (.975)

Mason (.850)
Garon (1.2)

TOTAL: 47.5 million

Combined Richards and Leclaire would make 11.6 million. That is a lot of dough to tie up in two players.

I'll gladly take my chances with B.



Anonymous said...


Going with the Richards deal you forgot that Creme de Brule was included going to Tampa. I think that we would not have the ammo to land Torres in a trade if the Richards deal goes down.

LTL said...

Excellent point anml034! Definitely another domino.

..and do we win those Florida or Boston games without him last season?!


snappy said...

Nice piece, LTL. Always fun to do "what ifs" in hindsight. Looking forward to more of these. While we still lack a franchise center, I think we could be okay with Brassard. Lot of pressure being placed on that young man's shoulders though. I hope he picks up where he left off and stays healthy. Hopefully, he will develop into a first rate #1 center. So, while I was "bummed" when we lost out on Brad Richards last year, I think in the long run Howson and CBJ came out just fine. I feel a lot more confident with Mason between the pipes than Pascal. Liked Pazzy. Good goalie, but injury prone and with his style...... Time will tell, of course, how all this works out. More "what ifs" to compose after this season, I suppose.

LTL said...

Agree Snappy... another potential "what if"..

What if Rick Nash didn't sign his extension this offseason?

That will be an easy one to take stabs at.. just watch how Ilya Kovalchuk works his way out of Atlanta this season!

Anyhow.. just some fun to past the time until camp starts.


LTL said...

Something else I meant to say in this post was that at the time I really wanted Richards and was very dissapointed when we didn't land him.

He's a very good player and that trade would have really been exciting. Hindsight being 20/20 of course things worked for the better.

Sucked at the time though.

As Dave Mathews would say... funny the way it is!


eplagge said...

Great post LTL,

Yep it's end of August......

Brassard, yes he'll be a #1 center..but he isn't an established #1 like Richards.. just like you I was really disappointed we didn't land him... but Richards isn't the sturdiest of players and it's fair to say you are not getting 80+ games per season.. I would still love to have Richards but he isn't a perfect #1 center... Brass might have the same type of carreer as BR but he might end up having a better injury history.. I will take my chances with Brass...

Passy trade was easy for me... athletic/reactionary style goaltender with a piss poor injury history (hasn't played more then 13 consecutive pro games) and already has had surgery on 3 out of 4 joints (ankles/knees)... For me his faith was sealed when he had a minor concussion from a pre-game warm-up shot from Modin.. seriously... getting injured in the pre-game warm-up has to be very very very rare..

BTW what about a WHAT-IF future edition...

What if Howsen is able to trade Huselius, Chimera and some pick(s)/prospect(s) for Heatley ?? Would you do it..?? We only take on a little bit more salary... he's familiar with Hitch and Nash and might OK a CBJ trade.. personally I would be sceptical because the whole situation which has played out over the summer.. but he's 50 goals scorer, and if there is one coach who could handle him it's Hitch... anyways I will stop daydreaming now...