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Blue Jackets Links

The Central Division, and those scary ... Blues!?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
So that "30-year-old defenseman" that MacLean spoke about and I curiously mused on a week or so ago? Turns out that it is Anders Erikkson, who hasn't played in the NHL since the 2003-04 season.

I'd be lying if I said that I'm not concerned about the lack of movement by the Jackets in the free agent market. While we made a notable move with trading Denis for Modin and Norrena, very little beyond re-signing and shoring up qualifying offers to RFA players with the Jackets has happened.

I think what concerns me is the fact that the all of the other Central Division teams seem to be getting notably stronger at the moment ... well, with the exception of the Red Wings, who seem to have been just as silent as the Blue Jackets so far in terms of UFA signings. As for our other Central neighbors ...

The Blues got Doug Weight back, picked up Bill Guerin from Dallas, grabbed Dan Hinote from Colorado, and let's not forget their #1 overall draft pick in Erik Johnson, who everyone keeps referring to as a young Chris Pronger (does that mean he, too, will have a nagging wife? Kidding, kidding).

The Blackhawks, while not anywhere near as bold in their signings as the Blues, picked up Patrick Lalime, who I assume they hope can make a stable backup to Khabibulen (or even compete for his starting spot, considering Khabi all but imploded with the new pad size regulations in the "New NHL"). They also got the #3 pick in Jonathan Toews.

The Predators, who were already pretty strong last season -- and could very well have made it further in to the playoffs were it not for Vokoun's heart condition hampering his ability to play (though Steve Mason playing as backup did a commendable job regardless) -- picked up one of my favorite and former New Jersey Devils (it's hard to imagine him as a Star even after four years of him being there) Jason Arnott. There's no question that they'll be in that same position next season where they'll be in the playoff hunt.

So with all of the other teams getting stronger from the UFA market, anyone couldn't help but want to know what is MacLean waiting for? Four days might seem like a short time in the grand scheme of life, but when it comes to just how fast people are snapped up in the NHL when the UFA signing season rolls around, one can't help but feel somewhat concerned.

Part of me wants to say that I should keep the faith, though. Remember, the Blue Jackets had something like the top 10 or top 7 records in the second half of the season, and many of those guys from then will be coming back. We also have a lot of young guys now making the jump up to the NHL from the minors, such as Picard and Brule. But even so, it's hard to know what to expect from those two, as their time up with the Jackets last season was very minimal.

Either way, I don't really have my fingers crossed when it comes to expecting anything in terms of new signings by MacLean. Like I said in my last entry, the Jackets are already in that "comfort zone" of a salary cap that MacLean has said he wants to stay in, once you factor in RFAs and contracts that have yet to be officially made public by the Jackets, or TSN and their payroll records. If I see any new names coming in from outside of the Jackets or their minor league affiliates, I'll be surprised.

Edit (9:27 AM, 7/5): Man, I must've been somewhere else mentally when I wrote up the Nashville section yesterday and put in "Toskala" instead of "Vokoun". Thanks, Drew.
  • At 8:07 AM, Blogger Drew said…

    Put down the Kool-Aid, Michael. I think we're in a good spot. I was surprised by the Erikkson signing, but considering we only had (at best) a 6-7 defenseman spot open I don't think it's that big of a deal. At least we know Anders can put the puck on net. As for the forwards, with the signing of Modin it could be reasonably argued that the only spot we're still looking to fill is Trevor Letowski's third line RW hole. And no offense to Trevor, but I don't think you need to act in the first four days of free agency to replace him. It's possible we can fill the spot from within (Fritsche), and there are still hundreds of UFA's available.

    If there is a trend we've seen in the last four days, it's been that GM's are willing to vastly overpay for talent. If Doug MacLean is (finally) willing to forego that game, color me relieved. As much as I'd like to see a Pisani type guy on the third line, I don't want to pay $2.5 million for it (we can get Letowski back for less). I've had it up to my ears with MacLean signing a Marshall/Marchant/Cassels/etc. type player for too much money and trying to convince the CBJ fans that this is true top 6 talent. We're relatively new hockey fans in Columbus, but you can only stab us in the gut so many times before we figure out you're not a surgeon.

    I think St. Louis' moves are mostly to put butts in the seats. Weight has a few more serviceable years left, but seriously... who's afraid of Bill Guerin anymore? After last year in Dallas, not me. Shanny might end up there too, but I still think this team is throwing too much money on players who will help them marginally for a year or two. From a business standpoint, it does make sense.

    Chicago signed Lalime? I can hear Bill Wirtz trying to sell his GM on this one... "C'mon, he was the backup goalie for the worst team in the league last year... this will really rip the heart out of our fanbase... DO IT!"

    The Arnott signing was a good one for Nashville, who (depending on how things go for the DRW this summer) may be my pick to win the Central.

    All in all, I think that our concern (it's there for me a bit as well) should be tempered a bit. We have to be careful what we wish for.

    (Also, it was Vokoun for Nashville, not Toskala).

  • At 10:17 PM, Blogger Michael Turner said…

    You're probably right ... about the need to not be so concerned. To be honest, it isn't so much that I want MacLean to go out and sign, say ... Petr Sykora (and it looks like he's still on the market, too). But when all of the other teams in your division and conference are busier than you by so much as picking up one player who is a UFA from another team, you start to get a little impatient. Almost as though you want to know what MacLean is thinking, or if he is even going to sign anyone else, even if it's just to a one-year deal.

    Coming from New Jersey and having been brought up following a guy like Lou Lamoriello, I'm used to seeing things move and shake within hours of free agency beginning. So patience has never been my strong point when waiting for a GM to make a move, no matter how big or small it is.

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Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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