I'll start by giving a big shout out to Jeff and Sean for doing yeoman's work all through the lead-up to the trade deadline. Thanks for taking on this often unappreciated job, gentlemen - you handled yourselves (and the inevitable disputes) with grace and wisdom. Cheers!
The Blue Jackets started working on the trade deadline 6 weeks ago, and were active right up until the final hours. It was a very expensive process, as the team now finds itself without a first or second round pick this summer, and no first next summer as well, in addition to young assets in Dylan Olsen, Andrei Loktionov, Mats Zuccarello and Jason Zucker.
In that time, the team has added:
- Johan Franzen - "Mule" gives the Jackets a true power forward presence in the slot
- Mike Ribeiro - "Ribs" a "rat" in the Brian Burke lexicon, but this rat can dish and score
- Bryan Little - "Mister Big" looking to regain his 30-goal form, flying on afterburners with NHL Jets
- Grant Clitsome - "Hot Spot" a fireplug that skates well, moves the puck and lays the body
- Radek Martinek - "Radar" a steady veteran presence in front of the net... and sometimes IN the net
- Michael Sauer - "Sweets" returns to C-Bus following a strange blueline odyssey this winter...
Follow the bouncing trade ball:
- Sauer traded to Dallas for Chris Kelly
- Marek Zidlicky traded to LA for picks and cap room
- Dylan Olsen traded to NYR for Bryan Allen in an effort to shore up own end
- Allen traded to SJS (with one of the picks from LA) for Tom Gilbert
- Gilbert traded to DAL for Sauer, a pick and cash
Sauer was actually re-acquired to be part of yet *another* deal that fell through at the deadline, but we're happy to keep him. Even so, this is a pretty good illustration of how it can be a mistake to make trades in response to what's happening on the ice in a given season. I'd say "lesson learned", but really, I think we all know that's not quite true, don't we?
The Blue Jackets head into the stretch drive with the following lineup:
Burrows - Ribeiro - Franzen
Dubinsky - Zajac - Briere
Kulemin - Malhotra - Little
Kelly - Moore - Thorburn
The KLM line (Kulemin, Little and Malhotra) has been on fire ever since being put together several games ago, and Dubinsky has provided a spark to Zajac and Briere in the last few games, especially on the powerplay. Ribeiro and Franzen have struggled since being acquired, so they have been bumped up to the first line with Burrows in an attempt to kick-start their production. Kelly, Moore and Thorburn provide an dynamic energy line. As a whole, the forward units are built around speed, defensive responsibility and balanced scoring. Add in the versatility to mix and match players to present a different look against certain opponents, and hopefully it will make up for the absence of a bona fide game-breaker.
The Jackets' blueline remains built on speed and puck movement, but now has more depth and defensive acumen to provide support during what the team hopes is a long playoff run. Vokoun is one of the best netminders in the HFNHL, and Dubnyk has provided capable relief throughout the season, with the potential of becoming a #1 starter himself in the next year or two.
Kulemin and Dubnyk will be RFAs this summer, but the team expects to be able to sign both players to extensions before the end of the season. Moore and Malhotra are scheduled to become UFAs, and while no decision has been made yet about whether to re-sign either player, the team already as a full complement of players for next season, with David Clarkson and Devante Smith-Pelley ready to step into the lineup. And with the move of Gilbert, there is even cap room to add another roster asset if the opportunity presents itself.
However, most of the team is scheduled to become free agents in the summer of 2013, so there is definitely a window of opportunity with this version of the Blue Jackets before a significant retooling will be necessary.
The prospect pool took the biggest hit, with the team's top 10 now looking like this:
1. D Dougie Hamilton
2. D Justin Schultz
3. L/RW Devante Smith-Pelley
4. D Brian Dumoulin
5. L/RW Carl Klingberg
6. G Leland Irving
7. C/LW Blake Geoffrion
8. C Patrice Cormier
9. D Patrik Nemeth
10. LW Marcel Mueller
With no early picks for the next couple of years, the Jackets are going to have to get lucky with some of the mid-round picks they've accumulated if they hope to add to the top-end talent this prospect pool so sorely needs, especially up front and in goal.
Last edited by Ohio Jones: 03-04-2012 at 11:07 AM.
Had a good chuckle coming across this post-game audio from last night's convincing Jets win over Buffalo. The three players featured? Bryan Little, Chris Thorburn and Grant Clitsome. All, entirely coincidentally, HFNHL Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets announced last night that the team has reached agreement on contract extensions for pending RFAs Nikolai Kulemin and Devan Dubnyk. Terms were not disclosed, but sources suggest Dubyk signed for 2 years, while Kulemin agreed to a 4 year deal.
Two-way winger Kulemin, a second-round draft pick of the Jackets back in 2006, is having a breakout season on a line with Bryan Little and Manny Malhotra, scoring most of his 13 goals and 32 points since the line was formed last month. He has also posted a sturdy +11 rating on a team where the top scorers have even ratings or worse. Kulemin responded to the news by scoring the opening goal in the Blue Jackets' shootout win over playoff hopeful Phoenix last night.
Dubnyk was acquired in the offseason from Winnipeg to serve as the backup and protege to starting netminder Tomas Vokoun. In 11 appearances this season, DD has gone 4 and 4, with one loss in OT, posting a very respectable 2.29gaa and 0.921save%.
The team has a couple of minor leaguers still to qualify, and possibly a prospect or two it will sign to ELCs, but this wraps up next season's business on the main roster for now.