Here's the situation:
The Jackets are a good team. They currently sit fourth in the tightly-packed Western Conference, are ranked seventh in the league on the PK, sit 5th in the league in goals-against per game and first in coolest backup mascot.
There is one major issue the Jackets are dealing with however- the power play. The Jackets are the proud owners of the 28th ranked power play in the league. If the team wants to stay amongst the top teams in the conference, the power play must see an improvement.
Let's look at a few reasons why the PP may be under-performing:
- the team has been without one if its top snipers in Kristian Huselius for the last few weeks, and it will in all likelihood be a few more weeks until he returns
- The defense is a solid group defensively, but there are only two players who can be considered "offensive" defensemen- Kris Russell and Anton Stralman. To date, those two have combined for a paltry 9 points, all assists. Of those nine points, only six were on the powerplay. Not acceptable from your supposed power play quarterbacks.
- We're past the quarter pole of the season, so learning a system may not still apply, but new assistant coach Bob Boughner runs the PP. Maybe the team is still learning his PP system?
No matter which way you slice it, the Jackets need to improve their play with the man advantage. One major in-house move was made to help the PP when Derick Brassard was placed on one of the points. While he has looked good manning the point, the team still requires a big shot from the blueline and offensive instincts from the guys on the other point and second unit.
Enter Marc-Andre Bergeron.
It's the same song and dance as last year- he wasn't signed in the summer and the season began before he was offered a contract. Montreal's top offensive blueliner, Andrei Markov, went down with injury and the Habs signed him for the remainder of the year to supply offense from the back end and help the powerplay. Bergeron finished with an impressive 13 goals, 21 assists for 34 points. His power play numbers were 7 goals, 15 assists for 22 points. His 7 goals with the man advantage was good for fourth in league among defensemen.
Bergeron was signed for $750,00 by the Habs. It's likely that he will get at least that or perhaps a bit more if he were to sign with a team soon. Just this afternoon Andy Strickland of truehockey.com had this to say:
Sources close to Bergeron tell me he considering multiple NHL offers as four teams have expressed interest in signing the power play specialist. Word is the four clubs are made up of two Western Conference teams as well as two from the East.
Bergeron expects to have a contract signed by the end of this week. He's likely to immediately report to the AHL and play a few games before we see him back in the National Hockey League.
I think it's very possible that Columbus could be one of the two Western Conference teams that Strickland mentions. The Jackets have money under the cap to add him, but will the owners approve of the increase in salary if he is strictly signed off the street? The possibility of moving an existing Columbus blueliner is likely, both to allow for his contract and to create a roster spot.
The question then becomes who gets dealt? Though he is currently injured, Marc Methot has been the team's top blueliner, along with Rusty Klesla. Mike Commodore was slow out of the gate with injuries and inconsistent play but he has been great of late. Fedor Tyutin is the team's most complete blueliner, and his contract is decent. That leaves Jan Hejda, Russell and Stralman as candidates to get dealt. Hejda is in the final year of his contract, and a team could be interested in his services. He's steady eddie on the back end and has a great cap hit. Even though Russell and Stralman are struggling, Stral's value is likely very low and Russ is young enough that I think the team should hang on to him for a bit longer.
In the end signing Bergeron could alleviate the issues on the power play, and trading a guy like Jan Hejda, who again, is an impeding UFA, could bring back a decent return. As high as a second round pick perhaps.
While I'd hate to see a guy like Hejda go, if it means bringing a hired gun like Bergeron on board to boost the woeful PP, I'm all for it.