Yesterday I looked at the unrestricted free agents for next year, and today I want to finish that by looking at the restricted free agents for the Jackets. A restricted free agent is, essentially, someone who is up for a new contract, but the Blue Jackets have the first chance to offer them a contract, and can match any contract another club may offer.
Restricted free agency can get a little more complicated, but there's a good explanation of all the ins and outs of the NHL free agency system here.
The 2009-10 restricted free agents for the Blue Jackets are (08-09 salary is in parenthesis, listed in millions of dollars):
Alexandre Picard (.787) - May have finally found his scoring touch at the professional level. He scored 21 goals in the final 22 games with Syracuse this year. 7 of those goals came in a 2-game span. Showed a better sense of what it takes to compete in the NHL. Could surprise some next year.
Jiri Novotny (.800) - Novotny can be good for 4-5 games in a row, then disappears. When he plays the way the coaches want him to play, he's an excellent addition to the fourth line. Can play any forward position. Can have a nose for the net when he plays with passion. Needs to find consistency. Jackets may look to keep him if no better options surface.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (.750) - His unforgiving style of play may be leading to more wear and tear on his body than those he's checking. Missed a considerable chunk of games due to injury this year. A great player to have around, and could compete for a 7-8 spot, but may get a better shot with a different team. It doesn't help his case that we pretty much only have defensive defensemen right now, and need someone to provide offense from the backend.
Marc Methot (.522) - Proved doubters wrong, and had a very strong season. He backed up his words and proved his worth for the Jackets. If the Blue Jackets add a defenseman, or two, this summer, will he become one of the odd men out? Hopefully not, he was solid enough when filling in for Rusty Klesla who was out much of the year.
Dan LaCosta (.525) - We almost had another rookie goalie sensation. Played great in 2 games where he beat the two top teams in the NHL at the time, San Jose and Detroit. Earned his first NHL shutout, and showed his first real signs of true NHL potential. The Jackets will most certainly re-sign him.
This is an interesting group of restricted free agents. A lot of guys that have, in some sense, boom or bust potential. Letting one of these guys go, especially at a low price, could hurt if they have a strong season next year. But how much money do you continue to give a questionable first round pick that has 0 goals and 2 assists in 58 NHL games?