2012 NHL Entry Draft
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04-16-2012, 09:57 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
NHL: Hat trick would help Jackets’ recovery
When it comes to their offseason plans, the Blue Jackets prefer reshape to rebuild. In this case, they’re not splitting hairs.
Rather than dismantle the roster and start on a three- or four-year rebuilding plan, indications are that the Blue Jackets will make moves this summer with the hope of being competitive — dare we mention the Stanley Cup playoffs? — next season.
To that end, they have three bullets to fire in the next few months — three significant commodities that could be used to help buttress a deadwood roster full of bloated salaries.
“It’s the biggest summer since I’ve been here,” general manager Scott Howson said. “I see us being competitive next season, for sure. We have to be more competitive.
“There are a lot of moving parts. It depends on where they fall, in terms of the impact we can make on the franchise.”
First, the Blue Jackets are almost certain to trade captain Rick Nash, who asked for a trade in January but was still with the team after the trade deadline in February because Howson didn’t find a deal to his liking. The sides have remained amicable, but this could get awkward, if not ugly, if Nash remains with the club.
Second, the Blue Jackets have the No. 2 pick in the draft in June, as well as the Los Angeles Kings’ first-round pick (currently No. 17) — unless the Jackets opt to take the Kings’ first-round pick in 2013 instead.
The Blue Jackets would be delighted if winger Nail Yakupov slid past Edmonton with the No. 1 pick, but if he doesn’t, they’ll have their choice of defenseman Ryan Murray or forwards Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk or Filip Forsberg.
It is more likely that the Blue Jackets will use the Kings’ pick, their third bullet, as part of a trade. Under the terms of the trade — the same deal that brought defenseman Jack Johnson to Columbus for center Jeff Carter — the Jackets don’t need to indicate whether they plan to use the pick or defer it to next year until two picks before the Kings are on the clock.
In other words, the Blue Jackets can listen to trade offers on the draft floor and respond accordingly. When the Blue Jackets look down their offseason shopping list, they will see the biggest need is goaltending. After three poor seasons, they have decided that if Steve Mason returns next season, it will be as a backup.
No. 1 on the list of potentially available goaltenders would appear to be Vancouver’s Cory Schneider, who will be a restricted free agent and likely draw a salary of $4 million or more.
The Canucks will likely make a qualifying offer, but his rising salary — Schneider has arbitration rights, should it come to that — will make it almost impossible for him to remain in Vancouver. The Canucks are already committed to starter Roberto Luongo for 10 more seasons with a $5.3 million cap hit.
Nashville’s Anders Lindback,
of Los Angeles and Boston’s Tuukka Rask have surfaced as possibilities, but it would be difficult for the Jackets to make an intradivision trade with the Predators, and it’s hard to imagine the Bruins moving Rask when their starter, Tim Thomas, is 38.
If a trade cannot be made, the free-agent goalie market is thin, led by Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen, Martin Biron, Dan Ellis and Jonas Gustavsson.
The Blue Jackets’ other glaring weakness — a lack of scoring — will only be exacerbated if Nash is traded. The Jackets have been 28th, 25th and 25th in scoring the past three seasons, and that’s with Nash averaging 31.7 goals those seasons.
Nash would likely bring the Blue Jackets a combination of draft picks, prospects and established players, including at least two players ready for an NHL roster.
The Blue Jackets fielded offers from Toronto, San Jose and the New York Rangers, among others, at the trade deadline. Despite reports at the time, the club that made the best offer was not the Rangers, although Blue Jackets senior adviser Craig Patrick wouldn’t say who it was.
If Nash doesn’t land a goaltender in return — none of those clubs would appear to have one available — he would have to bring one or two forwards who could contribute offensively.
Take Nash out of the picture, and the Blue Jackets’ top six for next season include R.J. Umberger, Derick Brassard, Vinny Prospal and possibly second-year pros Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen. If they draft a forward with the No. 2 overall pick, he could slot in there, too. They could add a player via free agency, too.
After the most disheartening season in franchise history, the Blue Jackets have three bullets to fire.
More than ever, it’s important they fire them with perfect aim.
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