With much of the free agency dust settled around the Blue Jackets and the rest of the NHL, by reader request, we'll take a look today at how our "Should He Stay or Should He Go" votes worked out compared to the results in the first week of July.
With 22 goals and 34 points last season, many Jackets fans took a liking to Upshall as soon as he arrived in Columbus at the trade deadline because of his energetic, aggressive play and offensive touch. Even though he wasn't able to help push the club into the playoffs, many thought he was still worth retaining for the right price, with 60% of the 160 voters pushing for his return.
Unfortunately, his salary demands clearly put him outside of what Columbus was willing to invest in the winger, and with Florida offering him an almost 50% yearly raise from his previous $2.25 million contract to a four year, $14 million dollar deal, it wasn't surprising to see him heading to Sunrise as part of Dale Tallon's "new look" Panthers.
As a restricted free agent, it was clear Columbus had interest in keeping Jake, as they provided him a qualifying offer before he left to play in the World Championships for the Czech Republic at the end of the season, but with repeated questions about his off-ice maturity and conditioning, many wondered if his development was beginning to stall. Still, 71% of the voters felt it was worth giving Jake a shot.
As we all know, things ended up going a different direction when Paul Holmgren offered Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Jake and the 8th overall selection in the entry draft. Signed to a one year, $2.25 million dollar contract, he's getting a chance to prove himself in Philadelphia, and we wish him luck.
A favorite of Ken Hitchcock, Andrew "Weighty" Murray cycled in and out of the team's bottom six, but it seemed that his role had been overtaken by others, particularly Matt Calvert. Not surprisingly, most voters (81%), felt it was time for Murray and the Jackets to part ways.
Murray was told by the Jackets that he would not be retained as a free agent, and has yet to find a new home in the NHL.
The surprise of the early season, Wilson was signed on a two way, one year deal with the expectation that he would provide scoring and leadership for Springfield, but ended up making the roster out of camp and stayed up with Columbus for much of the season. Delivering some surprising offense and a couple of key shootout goals, many thought he deserved a longer look in Columbus - over 94% voted that Scott Howson should keep him around.
As it turned out, Wilson would go to July 1st and signed a two year deal with the Nashville Predators. The main reason? Most likely because Nashville offered a guaranteed one year contract in the second year, a roster spot that Scott Howson simply cannot guarantee given the likely development of Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, and Tomas Kubalik.
An NHL journeyman signed for a leadership role in Springfield, Guite was a top player for the Falcons, serving as their captain, and many hoped he might return this year to serve a similar role. 87% of voters wished for him to return to act as Springfield's captain again this season, helping to guide the Jackets' prospects in their early pro development.
As it turns out, Guite would sign a one year, two way deal with San Jose that pays him less at the NHL level, but more when he plays in the AHL compared to last season. Perhaps hoping to crack their NHL roster as a cap friendly option for the fourth line, it's likely he'll once again see a lot of time in the A.
A stalwart for Columbus since being acquired from Edmonton, Hejda was a fan favorite for his unselfish play, willing to give up his body time and again to block shots and make hits in the defense of the blue line. Though the two sides worked on a deal, it was clear that Hejda was looking for more term (and more money) than Scott Howson was comfortable offering a player likely to be leaving the NHL in the next few years, and Jackets' fans were equally divided, with 68% hoping for his return, while 32% felt it might be too high a price.
The Colorado Avalanche, on the other hand, were more than happy to offer Hejda a four year, $13 million dollar deal on July 1st, in the hopes that he can provide some veteran stability to make up for the loss of Adam Foote and John-Michael Liles. With Colorado set to be one of the first teams visiting Nationwide at the start of the season, Jan can likely expect a warm welcome on October 12th.
Another RFA, Methot was a pleasant surprise for the Jackets' blue line this season, stepping up to become one of their more reliable defenders, though his offensive punch was a bit lacking. Eating heavy minutes in all situations, he was in line for a raise, and talks between Methot and the Jackets were going well enough that despite filing for salary arbitration, he was confident a new deal would get done. Jackets fans were overwhelmingly in favor of his return for a longer contract, with 90% looking forward to seeing him become a key part of the franchise in the next several years.
Scott Howson agreed, providing Methot with a new four year, $12 million dollar deal that will start at $2.25 million this year and increase each season until it reaches $3.75 million in the final year of his contract - potentially a bargain if he continues to develop into a top pairing defender.
One of the crop of younger players helping to create true defensive depth for the Jackets, Holden had brief callups at the NHL level, but has not been a regular in Columbus. Providing steady, consistent play in Springfield, he could well be in the battle for the team's #7 d-man slot in camp this season, and 91% of voters wanted to see him retained as a restricted free agent.
Signed to a 1 year, 2 way deal, Holden has an opportunity to make the leap to the NHL this year, but if he fails to make an impact, he could find himself looking to move to a new organization next season.
The Finnish twitter star was acquired from Phoenix in the Rusty Klesla deal along with Scottie Upshall, and though he had some impressive games like his four assist performance against Minnesota, he also had some inconsistent moments. Taken as a whole, most fans (63%) felt it would be best to part ways, giving Scott Howson room to overhaul the blue line in trades and free agency.
Lepisto was not given a qualifying offer by Columbus, and has not signed on with a new NHL club as yet. If he stays in North America, it's entirely possible that he may be forced to wait until September and attend a team's training camp as a free agent in hopes of earning a contract.
After an offensively promising season and a barely avoided arbitration, it was a big year for Anton Stralman, and he can only be called a disappointment after an 18 point, -11 showing where he missed 30 games. Not surprisingly, 89% of fans wanted to see him out the door, and Scott Howson agreed.
Stralman was recently quoted by a Swedish newspaper that he might be waiting until October before signing with an NHL club, and should that fail, he may return to Europe to play instead.
Columbus' backup for the past two seasons, Garon was expected to become a mentor and stabilizing influence on Steve Mason. Though he had some shining performances, he also had some terrible efforts, and never seemed to be able to consistently step in when Mason struggled. With such a wide open goaltending market, fans were almost evenly split on retaining Garon (52%) vs. looking for another option (48%).
Scott Howson eventually made the decision to acquire Mark Dekanich as a free agent, while Garon would sign a two year, $2.6 million dollar deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he is expected to back up Dwayne Roloson.
How'd We Do?
Playing GM is always a funny business, but it seems like we had an easier time figuring out the plan on D, where our polls predicted 4 out of 5 of the actual results, compared to forwards, where we went 1 for 6. One thing is clear: Scott Howson had plans to dramatically change the looks of his roster at the NHL and AHL levels, and he executed that plan beyond all expectations.
Now, as fans, we simply have to wait and see how it plays out on the ice.