After the first twelve hours of free agency 2011, Scott Howson has seen more action than the Varsity Quarterback on your local High School squad would see in two Senior seasons.
As I write this, in the wee morning hours, Mssr. Howson is likely seated at a desk, a regular gladiator match playing out in his mind. Whether that desk is at home or within the walls of the greatest Arena in the league (now that the Igloo is defunct), is of little consequence. At this moment Scott Howson’s brow has loosened, but his lips are still undecided; unsure whether to smile, or purse in uneasy concentration.
To quickly rehash the big news, The Boss traded our good friend Jakub Voracek and a couple of picks for the services of Jeff Carter. Carter is the kind of player who can match many of Rick Nash’s talents and help push Nasher to the next level that he should’ve reached around the time he split the "Rocket" trophy with two bonified superstars.
Scotty H. then traded a conditional 2012 seventh round draft pick to Les Habitants for the negotiating rights to RFA James Wisniewski. It was the first time in CBJ history that a trade had been made for negotiating rights. It seemed risky, but it worked out. As of this writing, Wisniewski’s contract is the largest handed out to a free agent.
The Wiz will give something that that the BJ’s have always lacked… a D-man to quarterback the power play.
The term "Power Play" may be foreign to many Blue Jacket fans; In essence, the team on a power play has (at least) a one man advantage on the opposing team, and that team tries to work the puck to a defenseman to rip a good shot on net, resulting in either a goal or a juicy rebound. The Jackets have never had a serious threat on the blue line… until now.
Howson made four other moves on the day, only two of which could have an impact on the NHL squad this season. No offense to Nicholas Drazenovic and Andrew Joudrey, but the two forwards will have little effect on the big league squad. They were signings to help bolster Springfield and help influence the development of the younger prospects in the system.
The other two signings of Day One were the big surprise. It was common knowledge that the Jackets were looking to sign a veteran goaltender to back up and mentor Steve Mason. That "knowledge" could not have been more wrong.
The Boss let Mathieu Garon walk, then signed two goaltenders on FA day.
Curtis Sanford was signed to a two-way deal. A guy who once played second fiddle to Roberto Luongo would seem like a somewhat solid backup to "The Franchise". However, Howson made another move, one that would lead any competent Columbus fan to question ask "whaa?" or "Who??".
The one-way NHL deal that Mark Dekanich was signed to was a bit of a shocker. After all of the speculation that the Jackets would sign a veteran to back up Steve Mason, the deal for Dekanich was a big surprise. Scouts around the league rate this guy in the same class as Brayden Holtby of the Ovechkin Capitals. Holtby is a top prospect, but has little NHL experience, and that which he has came via injuries to his predecessors. The Jackets's new guy has exactly fifty minutes of NHL experience, in which he allowed three goals.
We just need to hope that Dekanich can live up to the potential that the scouts see in him, or it will be a very long year for Mase.
I will not pass judgment yet on Howson’s moves this off-season because we’ve got a while to go until October, when the season really starts. Jan Hejda’s defensive fortitude is yet to be replaced, and a veteran winger could really help the third line now that Upshall is gone. As of now, though, I feel confident in this team’s ability to take the next step.
My grade for Scott Howson after day 1 of free agency: B
Here’s a toast to Scotty raising it to an "A" by signing a stay-at-home defenseman and veteran to get this team to where it needs to be.