Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let's Play FA in Columbus..

Taking a look at this years TSN favourites for the upcoming free agency period made me really consider what Columbus should focus one outside of their obvious priority of re-signing Captain Rick Nash.

Based on TSN, their forward all free agent team includes;

Forwards - Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Marian Gaborik, Mike Cammalleri, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Brian Gionta, Mike Knuble, Nik Antropov

Defense - Jay Bouwmeester, Scott Neidermayer, Rob Blake, Mattias Ohlund, Johnny Oduya, Mike Komisarek, Sergei Zubov

Goalies - Khabibulin, Roloson, Biron

Now, I am fairly confident that while the Jackets have three solid centers in Vermette, Brassard, and Umberger, it might be a solid idea to keep RJ on the wing with Vermette, and bring in another strong centerman.. That being said, the only sniper on that list is Koivu, which will likely mean many teams will be in the hunt to acquire his services. More importantly now, with the strength clearly being on the wing, the Jackets will need to consider their other options.

First and foremost, Columbus needs right handed players. Filling that void would be Gionta or Knuble. Personally, I would prefer having Knuble because of his consistency, which could add some serious depth to the roster. While the Jackets are in need of quality scorers, filling the gaps in the middle of the roster is an issue that has taken quite a few years to resolve.

I do not personally think that taking a risk on a player like Havlat is the best idea, but I would not mind enjoying the benefits of a healthy year for him. He is a prolific scorer that can wear his emotions on his sleeve, and can really bring a team together with his abilities on the ice. He would not be brought in for leadership, but he can certainly use his talent to lead by example. If he is willing to strike a reasonable deal, I would always welcome his (healthy) name on the roster.

Defensively, Columbus could use a healthy number one workhorse, which Klesla struggled heavily with over the last year. Certainly Bouwmeester could fill that void for the Jackets, but his hype could throw a huge shadow on his name considering the number he will likely command. I would prefer the Jackets avoided the older players unless they accept a short and reasonable contract number. Obviously some of the names on that list could really provide leadership, and that is something that was also questioned last year.

Obviously Steve Mason can not play another 78 game season (pro-rated from last year of course) but the Jackets should not be looking for high quality goaltending during free agency. Expect a mediocre goalie signed to a one or two year deal, allowing LaCosta to get one more year in the minors before coming up to support Mase.

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on this.. We are edging closer to some of the more exciting moments of the off-season, and I have not heard from any of you lately!

Carry the Flag!

Monday, June 8, 2009

What Will it Be Nash?

I spent the last year presuming that Nash would be the future of the Jackets for many years to come and that the franchise would rise and fall with his efforts on the ice, but frankly, based on some of the younger players entering the system like Brassard, Voracek, and Filatov, it really makes me wonder what real value there is in signing Nash to a huge contract.

A lot of the highest paid NHL players don't earn what they are paid. There is a mess of hype for a given player prior to them entering free agency, and they end up with a fat contract that they can never meet the expectations for.. Nash could easily fall under that category where his reputation should and likely will garner him numbers in the 8s and potentially 9s of millions if he were to slip to free agency.. But frankly, how many overpaid players in the NHL these days have shown a true level of commitment to their club?

I respect that a lot of Jackets fans have their number for Nash. You guys spend a lot of time speculating what Howson will offer him and whether it's worth it based on current market value for what he does, but frankly, shouldn't we be looking at this with a few more angles?

First off, Columbus is practically a sanctuary for Nash, having the opportunity to grow with the franchise and rarely having expectations on his shoulders that he can't meet with a good interview or a sweet deke here and there.. They finally made the playoffs this year, and the fan base as a whole seems overjoyed just to have the experience and I fully agree.

Secondly, he is a committed leader on the team. The guys seem to look to him to make the difference, and finally, ever so slowly, he's getting the secondary support that is really going to propel this team into a great position in the post season very soon.

Finally, it's his hockey team. If he goes somewhere else, people aren't going to idolize him the way young Jackets fans do. They aren't going to embrace him when he blows an opportunity (oh, hey breakaway, maybe next time) and they aren't going to give him the respect Jackets fans have given him his entire career.

Frankly, Nash should be only willing to take what the club can offer him, and at this point, unless he wants to be the only one on the team with a big contract, or he doesn't want them to dip into FA, he needs to look to other teams to see what their big players are doing. My prime example for this is Pavel Datsyuk, who is currently sitting on a 6 year, 6.7 million cap hit deal.  That is the epitome of a team discount. He is one of the league's best players, and has all the tools in his arsenal to challenge just about any other player in the league.

If Nash can't find a way to accept a deal like Datsyuks, I personally think the Jackets should trade him for a crapload of young talent at the deadline and see if one of them will.  If they decide to pay him the ridiculous money he does or does not think he is worth, I will be curious to see if the Jackets growth is stunted, just as Chicago's was by signing Brian Campbell to a ridiculous contract and totally smothering their cap hit.

Carry the Flag!