Not that anyone here knows about said history, save for maybe one or two real-life confidantes. In any event, let's talk hockey. Let's talk Blue Jackets. Let's talk about THE MOTHERLAND!!
Yes, the Motherland of Russia, where now former Blue Jackets' player Alexander Svitov has decided to return to. Apparently even the Blue Jackets are not immune to this off season's exodus of players leaving for overseas, which includes Alexi Yashin, Oleg Tverdovsky, and Stanislav Chistov, just to name a few.
When this information first became public just around early Friday, it was hard to believe. Svitov, to most people's knowledge, wasn't in a position where if he had stayed with the Jackets he may have not gotten any ice time. Coach Ken Hitchcock had been leaning on him positively since around the middle of last season, when he apparently took a liking to the centerman's physical play. I remember even bemoaning that, too, because of my own personal preference for more spritely Geoff Platt. Regardless of that, Svitov brought with him someone who hit people hard, crashed into anything not in a Blue Jackets' uniform, and was ready to get down and dirty. He may not have ever become the draft pick Tampa Bay had thought he would be while still with them, but he was looking to be relied on in Columbus.
Then there's the fact that no more than a month ago or so, he'd signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Blue Jackets. That alone should have been enough for Svitov to understand that this team wanted to have him around, just based off it being longer than one year, and also meaning he would most likely be up with the team all season, barring a trade or injury.
Of course, without a transfer agreement between leagues in Russia and the NHL, nothing can be done about Svitov signing to two different contracts, and forsaking the one he agreed on with the Blue Jackets. The best thing to do now is to move on and hope for the best.
However, Scott Howson has to decide how to move on. And therein lies two trains of thought:
1) Going with the fact that the Blue Jackets' already have a low ceiling when it comes to their personal salary cap, as dictated by ownership and the financial arm of the team, even with the $1m - $1.25m that Svitov was going to make off the books now, might it be better to just step back, take a deep breath, and see what plays out at training camp when both regular players and prospects from Syracuse and elsewhere come to camp? If the team is losing money, and most people -- both in and out of the organization -- have written off this year as a rebuilding one, maybe it is better to tuck that extra million and a quarter away for next year, or for a possible mid-season or trading deadline move in the off chance that the Jackets are actually in the running by that time.
Players such as Platt and Derrick Brassard deserve a chance to show their mettle at training camp, and there may even be others out there in the prospect camp such as generally unknown Kirill Starkov who could surprise the coaches and hockey operations staff.
Of course -- and this is something Blue Jackets' fans have a right to be concerned about after seeing what Doug MacLean did during his tenure -- the possibility of rushing a prospect too fast should be considered as well. Brassard, as some may recall, was injured pretty badly during last year's training camp, which resulted in his sitting out a fair amount of last season with his junior team. That could have stunted potential growth, and could also mean if he was brought up too fast, the team could just have another Gilbert Brule on their hands; tons of potential, but possibly and permanently hindered due to too much pressure too early.
2) The other option is to go in to the free agent market, which is what Howson and the Jackets appear to have already done. No later than a day after Svitov's defection was reported, Michael Arace mentioned in his blog that Michael Peca had been contacted by the Blue Jackets about the possibility of signing him on to the team for a year.
Given, Peca's been in negotiations with the New York Rangers for at least a couple of weeks now, and has practically been taken off the market by them if you believe most reports on how close Peca and the Rags are to finishing up a deal. But the truth is, it's been dragging on for quite a while, and Peca is still a UFA, whether or not they are 'close' to a deal.
Even though the Rangers are up near the ceiling when it comes to the league-wide salary cap (got to love being able to spend every single penny when you have the cash to), they could probably still throw Peca a little more than the Jackets may be willing to muster up. So this could all come down to a matter of Peca's personal preferences, or if he is willing to go to a team with a more chaotic year in store than a team pretty much favored to make the playoffs this season.
At the very least, he's saying the right words. As quoted from The Columbus Dispatch:
"The most intriguing thing about Columbus -- if a scenario presented itself for me to sign there -- is there aren't many coaches I hold in higher regard as Ken Hitchcock," Peca said. "And I have a lot of respect for Scott Howson and the things he did in Edmonton that a lot of people don't know about.
"I think there's a lot of great hockey left in me. I think it'd be great to come in and contribute to a team like that."
Aw, you big galoot. You're making us blush over here in C-Bus!
But in all seriousness, so long as the price is right, this might be the best option. Prospects such as Brassard are given time to better hone their skills over with the 'Cuse, while Peca brings a bevy of experience. Although he was injured for much of last season, he still has averaged just a fraction over 69 games played per season over the last 10 seasons, 2006-07 included. So for the most part, this old war horse can be considered reliable.
That, and with four Selke trophies between him and Sergei Fedorov, who knows? Maybe that'll help make our defense just about average overall, right?
Anyway, I am off to study now.