The hopes of Jackets fans and the Falcons faithful alike have received a nasty blow during the warmups of Springfield's game this evening.
Springfield broadcaster Mike Kelly reported via twitter that Dekanich left the warmup this evening with an undisclosed injury. Columbus GM Scott Howson later reported that the netminder suffered a groin strain.
With the injury, hopes to see Dekanich finally hit the ice with the Blue Jackets after recovering from his pre-season ankle sprain seem to have been dashed, another downturn in a season that most think has been cursed - a prognosis that seems more and more likely.
With that said, the Jackets are running out of options to provide an alternative to the struggling Steve Mason - and keeping Allen York in Columbus is an option that runs the risk of plateauing his development while he lacks playing time.
So, where do the Jackets go from here?Back to the Shelf
Columbus' other injured goaltender, Curtis Sanford, has been working out with the the team to recover from his groin injury, and Aaron Portzline reported that he has practiced for the past two days without issues. Sanford was intended as "insurance" for the team's goaltending tandem, and could provide an experienced hand to the team - if not a marquee upgrade, at least a passable relief option - but at the same time, it must be admitted that Sanford's last regular NHL duty was in the 2008-2009 season, where he made 19 starts with a .906 Save Percentage and 2.59 GAA.
Another option from the team's depth would be Manny Legace, currently on a deal with Springfield, but easily signed to a two way deal if the team felt he might provide a suitable alternative. Legace also has a bit more recent NHL experience than Sanford, having appeared in 30 games for Carolina during the 2009-10 season and posting a .904 SV % and a 2.89 GAA.
Goalies with regular NHL experience are a finite pool, but there remains one name on the free agent market - former Dallas starter Marty Turco, who remains unsigned but not officially retired.
The team could also consider reaching out to a player currently in Europe or the KHL, but such a move would be subject to waivers - much like the Red Wings attempt to sign Evgeni Nabokov last season, or Scott Howson's own poaching of Wade Dublewicz from the Islanders.
The Trading Post
If the Jackets made the decision to hit the trade market for relief, the first question is if they are looking for backup to simply provide an option until Dekanich returns to full health, or if the theoretical trade would be for a netminder to go forward following this season. Temporary options might include former Jacket Brian Boucher, currently with the Carolina Hurricanes or Michael Leighton, signed by the Flyers but stuck behind the tandem of Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovski.
Much has been made of Cory Schneider as a possible "#1" netminder, but the chances of Vancouver trading him - particularly while Roberto Luongo continues to deal with his own consistency problems - is unlikely. That template of a well seasoned but still young and talented backup netminder is not unique, though. Possible alternatives might include Jhonas Enroth in Buffalo, signed through next season in Buffalo but stuck behind Ryan Miller, and subject to a fairly nasty contract negotiation last offseason, which might make him amenable to going to another organization where he can step out of Miller's shadow. After 14 starts last season, Enroth has seen a heavier load so far in 2012, with 5 starts already and a 1.41 GAA / .941 SV %.
Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier is another possiblity - once the heir apparent in net for the Kings, he found his throne unexpectedly occupied by Jonathan Quick, and has spent time in Manchester before taking over the backup job full time last season, where he saw action in 25 games and posted a 2.48 GAA and a .917 SV%. Bernier also saw three games with Team Canada in last summer's world championships, giving him some familiarity with coach Scott Arniel.
Waiting for Godot
The final option, though unsatisfying to the fans, would be the easiest: Do nothing.
If this season has already been torched by the front office, allowing Mason to dig his way out, Dekanich to heal, and perhaps letting Sanford take the backup once healthy (with York returning to Springfield) would allow the team to see what opportunities develop at the trade deadline or into the offseason. However, if the team elects that option expect to hear a massive outcry from shocked and surprised media who continue to predict a shakeup in the Blue Jackets' crease - to say nothing of the reaction from fans.