Lepisto came to Columbus at the trade deadline from Phoenix along with forward Scottie Upshall in exchange for defenseman Rostislav Klesla. After the trade, Lepisto played 19 games for Columbus, notching five assists with a +3 rating. Should he stay, or should he go?
What's He Worth?
Lepisto came to Columbus with a reputation of being a solid puck-moving defenseman, perhaps a slightly bigger Kris Russell who doesn't skate quite as well. It took a few games for him to get adjusted, but in all honestly once he got integrated in Columbus he wasn't horrible. His +3 rating in the face of a limp to the season's finish line indicates he isn't irresponsible in his own zone. We didn't see much in the way of offense, but toward the end of the season he contributed a little, with his five assists in the final 12 games. It must be said, however, that three of those came in one game.
Lepisto turns 27 in October, so it's fair to say he's entering what would be considered his prime. So, the argument is: if Lepisto is cheap, is it worth it to keep him, or will he be redundant on a new-look blue line?
In terms of offensive production, this past season Lepisto compared with the likes of Alec Martinez (5/11/16 in 60 games), Derek Morris (5/11/16 in 77 games), Radek Martinek (3/13/16 points in 64 games), Johnny Boychuk (3/13/16 in 69 games), and Ryan Wilson (3/13/16 in 67 games).
In terms of age and experience, Lepisto compares closest to Boychuk (27, one more year, $2 million). I can't see Lepisto getting a raise all the way up to $2 million, but he will certainly jump up from the $800K he made this year.
What Should The CBJ Offer?
Well, I think it's tempting to make the qualifying offer, based on how cheap it is. The problem is, if Lepisto takes it suddenly Columbus is flush with defensemen they were supposedly getting rid of to "overhaul" the position.
If I'm setting his value, though, I split the different between the qualifying offer and Boychuk's salary, and say it should be in the neighborhood of $1.4 million per year for two years. I don't dislike Lepisto the player, but given the Jackets' need and desire to really add some top-shelf talent to their blue line, I think you have to let him walk.