As you all likely know, the Blue Jackets entered Free Agency looking to fill the following needs:
- A reliable backup for star goaltender Steve Mason
- Two checking centers to anchor third and fourth lines.
- One or two puck-moving defenders.
The second need has been half-solved with the signing of elite checking center Samuel Pahlsson who left Anaheim at the trade deadline last year to move to the windy city. I've said before that, unlike many, I expect Manny Malhotra to re-sign closer to the start of camp at around $1.5M which is a raise from last year, but not as much as Manny wanted. He'll see that no team will throw that kind of money at him and return to C-bus.
So what about a Free Agent defender to help out the power play and... score? Wait, defensemen can score? As crazy as it sound in Columbus, it's true. Kris Russell will be there in two years, and Fedor Tyutin is decent enough, but this team needs a nice shot from the point on the PP now that Jason Williams is unlikely to return.
After the jump are a few remaining defensive FAs who could fit the bill for the Blue Jackets with last year's team and cap hit.
Sergei Zubov, Dallas, $5.35M
- Zubov is an aging veteran, but could be extremely valuable to this team. He has played under Ken Hitchcock before (in Dallas) and thrived in the system. In his career, Zubov has cracked 50 points eight times and his career average is 0.72 points per game. After an injury plagued 2008-2009, look for Zubov to take a bit of a pay cut and sign a short contract. He could be a great influence on young defenders like Russell, Marc Methot, and recent #1 pick John Moore.
Derek Morris, NYR, $3.92
- Morris showed flashes of brilliance early in his career with Calgary and registered a career high 48 points in his first season with Colorado. Since then, Morris has been a thirty-point guy at best. He was acquired by the Rangers at the trade deadline from Phoenix this past season when Phoenix dumped a boat-load of salary and the Rangers attempted to make a bit of cap room. The Rangers are reportedly interested in re-signing him, but are not going to be hurt if he moves on. With four 30+ point seasons in his 11 years, he's not much of an upgrade (if any) over Tyutin.
Dennis Seidenberg, Carolina, $1.2M
- Seidenberg had a career year with Carolina last season, scoring 30 points (5G, 25A) in 70 contests. Since making his NHL debut in 2002, Seidenberg has shown lots of inconsistency and split a lot of time between the NHL and AHL levels. Expect a pay raise from last year due to the low number of top pairing D-men out there. Whichever team signs him will be hoping last season was a breakout year and not just a ceiling.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, Minnesota, $1.25M
- Bergeron is a young D-man with three 30+ point years and plenty potential to improve. Bergeron also made his debut back in the 2002-2003 season and has been very good moving the puck around the back end. Following a 32 point season with the Wild (his fourth NHL club), Bergeron will be looking for a pay- raise, but still could come in with a cap hit around two. This is the kind of guy you give a three-year deal to, and can easily trade should it not go well.
Mathieu Schneider, Montreal, $5.63M
- At forty years of age, Schneider can still move the puck. Should the Jackets try to sign him, look at one-year, at a cap hit in the $5M range. As a former Red Wing, the Jackets and their fans know what he is capable of, but at his age, he's a long shot for serious production
Those are just some options left through free agency. I really like Zubov as a mentor to the young guys and a quick fix for about two years until Russell and Tyutin are both at the top of their games. Which FA Defenseman would you like to see in Navy next year?
The Blue Jackets also have the option of trading for an offensive blue-liner. The popular name up for grabs on the market is Tomas Kaberle of Toronto. Any others that you can think of?
What should the Jackets do? Who do you think should they take? Comment below.