Tomorrow's the big day.
It's not very often the Jackets and their fans are excited this time of year. More often than not the trade deadline serves as a way for the team to unload impending free agents and tweak the minor league roster. This season however, the Jackets are in a position to be buyers. Whether or not a deal can be finalized remains to be seen, but the fact the team is in the playoff mix is refreshing and exciting.
Here at The Cannon we've looked at various topics related to the deadline, including ways to improve the blueline, to Matt wondering if we need to make a move at all, and Andy speculating on some deals involving some of the team's more available assets. Andy also gave his thoughts on the timing of a potential deal, Matt looked into Jake Voracek being available in a trade, I took a look at the moves made by the Jackets at all of their previous deadlines, and Lou gave us some insight into some of the Jackets' prospects who could be moved for NHL talent.
Check after the jump for final thoughts leading up to tomorrow's deadline from the entire Cannon staff:
I'm a fan of John-Michael Liles. He's a proven puck mover, and while his relatively high salary and limited no-trade clause raises some questions relating to the Jackets being in the mix for him, he is exactly the kind of player this team needs. With the team adding Craig Rivet yesterday via waivers and Rusty Klesla returning soon from injury, if the team were to add Liles a blueliner would have to go back to Colorado.
Impending free agents Jan Hejda and Anton Stralman could be of interest to Colorado, as they would fill Liles' roster spot but the Avs wouldn't be on the hook with them past June if things don't work out. It has been speculated that the asking price for Liles would be a second rounder, something the Jackets would almost assuredly cough up to get a player of his ilk. For example, Stralman can either be packaged with the pick for Liles, or Liles can be acquired for just the pick, and Stralman could be moved in a separate deal. There is also the possibility that Stralman can be waived and sent to the minors, with the risk of him being claimed. The team would then run with eight defenders down the stretch.
Tyutin - Methot
Klesla - Liles
Russell - Clitsome
Rivet - Hejda
Another player I have on my radar is Jason Arnott. While his best offensive days are obviously behind him, he has playoff experience, and will add valuable depth up the middle with Derick Brassard out of the lineup. When Brass returns, Arnott could hang on any line. Hypothetically, you can have Brass slide back in to his spot on the top line with Nasher and Jake, with Arnott serving as second line center with either Huselius or Calvert on one wing, with Umby on the other. Derek MacKenzie would have the role of center on the new "third" scoring line locked down, with Antoine Vermette filling in on his left, and either Huselius or Calvert on the other wing. Visually:
Nash - Brassard - Voracek
Huselius - Arnott - Umberger
Vermette - MacKenzie - Calvert
Moreau - Pahlsson - Dorsett
Clark - Murray - Boll
This lineup would allow coach Arniel to legitimately roll four lines, with three of them having the ability to put up points. The "fourth" line would be the checking unit, with Clark, Murray and Boller the depth guys.
This assumes that no forward on the active roster is sent to the Devils in return for Arnott. As Spector's speculates, Arnott may be available if the Devils lose today. Potential trade chips are Nikita Filatov, and any of the team's draft picks. I would hate to see the first rounder moved for him, but if a deal similar to the Liles trade I speculated about earlier doesn't happen, something like Filatov and a third rounder, or a lesser prospect and a second rounder may get a deal done for Arnott.
Again, this is all speculation, for fun. I'd be the happiest if we could land the big fish in Brad Richards, but in realistic terms acquiring Liles would be a win for me. If we could get a center like Arnott without having to give up a first round pick or anybody off the active roster, that would be fantastic as well.
What an exciting night. I'm sure I will be up into the wee hours of the night and will set my alarm for bright and early so I don't miss any action.
Howson has made it known that he plans to be a buyer - that the team has put itself in a position to contend for the playoffs, and that they deserve for him to add to their arsenal.
In my mind, the number one move that has to be made is for John-Michael Liles. I almost don't care about the price. Liles has 6 goals and 35 assists on a bad Avalanche team. The most points by a Jackets defenseman in a single season is held by Jaroslav Spacek with 45 points in 2002-03. Let that sink in for a minute - it's been 8 years since the Jackets had their most prolific offensive performance by a d-man.
There are always drawbacks to getting an offensive defenseman, including but not limited to the price of the trade, the contract they earn, and their focus on offense often at the detriment of their defensive play. But that's what you get. We're not talking about a once in a decade (or two) talent like Nicklas Lidstrom. Liles would be a perfect fit in union blue, and I'll be a little upset if he doesn't end up in Columbus unless Howson has something really good up his sleeve.
Aaron Portzline has reported that Liles would "likely" waive his no-trade clause for a deal to Columbus, and finally tonight broke that Columbus does, in fact, have an interest in Liles.
Another name, if Howson really wants to make a splash and turn some heads would be Stephen Weiss. Another consistently solid player on bad teams, he would really bolster the top two lines, especially if there is any concern over the return of Derick Brassard.
I love playing GM at home; what if we could pull off a couple deals like:
To Colorado: Anton Stralman, 2nd round pick
To Columbus: John-Michael Liles
To Florida: Rostislav Klesla, Nikita Filatov, Jonathan Sigalet
To Columbus: Stephen Weiss
Am I crazy? Probably.
It's a bit like Christmas Eve, this. Except Santa IS real, but we don't actually know if he'll be able to deliver any presents because there are 29 other Santas actively competing for each present.
Mike's thoughts on Liles and Arnott are reasonable possibilities, even if I'm not personally sold on Arnott, but let's look at another idea that I kicked around with a friend this morning - what if Scott Howson REALLY wanted to put people on notice?
The Ottawa Senators are so deep into the fire sale that Bryan Murray's office is actually en fuego. Scott Howson has successfully dealt with Murray before, and we know the Sens are trying to get young and work on rebuilding.
The Sens are also one of the few teams that are assuredly and totally out of it, especially now that Daniel Alfredsson is being shut down for the season. They're likely to shove Chris Phillips out the door, they've already tossed Brian Elliot and Jarko Ruutu off the island, and they're hoping to lock down Craig Anderson and go young around guys like Erik Karlsson, Bobby Butler, and Erik Condra.
What they have that would interest Columbus is simple: Jason Spezza.
Howson has said that the injury to Derick Brassard is making him look for some help down the middle, and while I'd love to see the team go for more puck moving offense, Grant Clitsome is making that less of an urgent priority since his arrival in Columbus.
If Columbus offered Ottawa Nikita Filatov, Rusty Klesla, and perhaps Brassard for Spezza and a pick or prospect (Jared Cowen might look nice in Union Blue in a few years...), they give Murray an instant young core to help the rebuild, a solid defenseman who can replace Phillips, and a bit of cap space. While giving up Brass and Filatov is a bit of an "ouch", adding a bona fide all star to play the pivot with Nash would finally satisfy one of the team's constant needs - and even better, both he and Nash would be locked up for the next several years, giving the team a solid offensive core.
Will it happen? In all honesty, probably not. It's the kind of deal you never see in these days of cap management and low risk moves. But it's fun to speculate.
In all honesty, I'm expecting the trade deadline to be a lot like Christmas when you're a little kid - you get the big JC Penny catalog full of toys, you spend hours and hours circling stuff with pens or highlighters to help you write a big list of ideas for Santa...and when the day comes, you unwrap a shiny box with your name on it, and you find something totally unexpected, and often just as nice, in the long run.
The speculation around this year's trade deadline has been nothing short of amazing. Since the Joffrey Lupul trade on February 9th that got the ball rolling, the Jackets have gone 5-2 (was 5-2 at the time of writing, after Sunday it's 5-3) and have significantly improved their playoff chances. For me, the chemistry that this team has found since the January 19th victory over the Florida Panthers is astonishing. Since being left for dead after a five game losing streak in early January, the team has consistently found a way to win hockey games. As much as I'd like to play GM for a day and tell you about a blockbuster that I'm about to make, I'm going to be ultra conservative at this point and say that I expect that GM Howson is not going to mess with success. Which means I'm expecting there to be no deals made by Columbus.
Only seven points currently separate fourth and twelfth place in the Western Conference. Based on that, I'm not seeing any substantive deals within the conference. A possible boon to the Jackets is that with their recent success, they might find an Eastern Conference buyer who might be willing to overpay for one of the current squad. Still, to me, that's a longshot and at this point I would be much more surprised if the Jackets make a trade than if they don't.
Whether the Jackets get in the game or not, It should be an interesting final 24 hours!
It's fun being buyers. As mentioned earlier, a deal may or may not be finalized, but being in the discussion as buyers is exciting. If any of the deals we have speculated on (or something similar) come through, you'll hear about it with our reaction as it happens. Be sure to check out The Cannon throughout the day tomorrow, and here's hoping Howson can land a player who can make a real impact on the team down the stretch.