Welcome back to another edition of Dan P.'s Mailbag here at The Cannon! Thanks to everyone who sent in a message. It appears that my e-mail link had a superfluous http:// tag in it, so I apologize for the issue. I believe it's fixed now, so you can send me an e-mail with your question. Be sure to include your Cannon commenting name, so that everyone knows who's writing in if your mail message gets chosen for the week.
Alright, this week there are two items that were left in the comments last week (again, sorry for the e-mail glitch) that I wanted to touch on. Here we go!
How would you guys feel about a high-risk, high-reward deal? Say a conditional 7th round pick for... wait for it... Rick DiPietro. Now hear me out... When healthy, he is a very solid goalie. Yes, the contract is a huge risk, but Columbus has never been in any kind of cap trouble. And the draft pick would be a pick that Columbus wouldn’t even score on anyway. I’d say take a risk that DiPietro stays healthy and Columbus has a number 1 goalie. --FFmorgan89
Woah. This is a pretty big matzo ball! It's also the second straight week we've had a big goalie question. I'll break this out into two parts: the player, and the contract. Both are worthy of their own discussion points.
Hmm, where to start? It really is the tale of two players. Drafted first overall in 2000, DiPietro is now officially on the wrong side of 30. At one point in time, he was on track to be a solid #1 goalie. His third year in the league, he won the starting job and had a very good year: 50 games, 23-18-5 record, 2.36 gaa, .911 sv%. He had a couple of "OK" years in his four-year run of playing consistently.
Here's the rub, though. He's only played more than 26 games four times in his 10 year career. These aren't just some bad-luck injuries; this is a pattern and history of not being able to be counted on to play. And, as we noted, he's not getting any younger. His career has gone off the cliff since 2008. He's played just 47 games total in the past four seasons. His gaa is 3.34, and his save percentage is a groin-kicking .888 over that span. Would you trade for that player right now? I don't think I would.
In your question, you noted that "when healthy, he's a very solid goalie." I don't know that I would agree with that, since the last time he played enough games to really be considered "healthy" was four years ago. He did have four straight years in which he played over 50 games; during that stretch, though, he had a pedestrian 2.71 gaa and .908 sv%. In other words, he's not exactly a guy that would bowl me over. And that's just the player, in a vacuum.
This is where it gets completely insane. Whereas, to me, you could make an argument for a late-round pick as a flyer on DiPietro the player, even with the numbers above, the contract is where the deal goes flying off the rails. He is starting year-seven of a 15-year contract. !!!! Think about that for a second. If this guy is on your team, you're stuck with him for NINE seasons, and for $40.5 million. !!!!!!!!
And, this isn't one of those "let's circumvent the cap!" contracts. He makes $4.5 million EVERY season for the duration. !!!!!!!!!!
There are a couple of ancillary factors involved, too. The Islanders are currently below the projected salary floor, so you'd probably have to send a player (or two) back for the salary to work for New York. I don't think I could get on board for that at all with respect to bringing in DiPietro. They also wouldn't have two goaltenders on their NHL roster, so they might fish for a goalie in return. As much as I don't care for Steve Mason, I wouldn't trade those two straight up, let alone as part of a package.
In summary, there's only a tiny sliver of up-side in this deal for me--the off-chance that a guy who's averaged 12 games over the past four seasons if suddenly healthy again, and reverts to better-than-his-averages form--and waayyyy, WAYYYYY too much risk in this trade. I would drive down to Nationwide and demand Howson be fired immediately if he made this deal.
I am excited for the season to start, but realistically looking forward what do you think this year's lineup looks like? And, what does 2015-2016’s lineup look like? --wolfertj3
Wow, this is a good question. I'm hesitant to throw out line combos until we see some practices, but I'll take a stab and try to lay out why.
SC-1: Cam Atkinson -- Derick Brassard -- R.J. Umberger
I think Brassard and Umby are going to be together; once they got more minutes together away from Rick Nash last season, they clicked. Remember the Carolina game with Umby's hatty? Brassard was with him for all three goals. Atkinson might be a little high up, but he's more of a sniper type to offset Umby's grittiness. He also gets to play with some more experienced guys.
SC-2: Vinny Prospal -- Artem Anisimov -- Ryan Johansen
Hear me out: I like Joey as a center, but I think he really did his best work last year on the right wing, and did so with ice time with Prospal. I think Anisimov is ready for more minutes, and so he gets the #2 center spot because of it. Prospal is the anchor, here, giving the two more raw players that veteran presence.
CK-1: Derek Dorsett -- Mark Letestu -- Brandon Dubinsky
I wrestled with this one for awhile. It bumps a guy to the fourth line that maybe shouldn't be there, but there is just so much fog around this team's lineup, especially at the bottom. I think that Dubinsky and Dorsett will THRIVE together, as they both play all-out, all the time. If Dorsett can build on his year from last season and Dubs can return to form, Mark Letestu is solid enough to center this line, and if he struggles on the pivot you could switch he and Dubinsky and Dubs can play center as well.
CK-2: Nick Foligno -- Derek MacKenzie -- Jared Boll
Foligno is the proverbial odd-man-out. I think he deserves a spot higher than this, but I just couldn't bump anyone else down here. He's a hard worker who will work well with DMac, and Boll can cruise around laying waste to people. Perhaps swap in Colton Gillies for Boll, but that's basically how I see it shaking out. This line could actually play more than the usual fourth-line minutes, and could generate a little offense here and there with Mac and Foligno.
D1: Fedor Tyutin -- Nikita Nikitin
No-brainer here. If healthy, this is our best all-around pairing based on how they played last year.
D2: Jack Johnson -- James Wisniewski
This is the offensive pair. They're on the ice for offensive zone starts, PP1 unit time, and any time you need to generate offense.
D3: Ryan Murray -- Adrian Aucoin
Assuming, of course, Murray stays in Columbus, this is the "learning curve" pair. Murray plays with a solid vet, and probably doesn't see a ton of minutes at first. John Moore is the odd-man out to start the season and heads to Springy. Look for someone like Nick Holden as the seventh D-man.
G1: Sergei Bobrovsky
G2: Steve Mason
Bob was brought in to challenge for the starting job, and I believe the team will give him every chance to beat Steve Mason; I think he will. Hopefully his rumored work ethic--something for which Mason has drawn fire from some in the media--combined with Ian Clark working with him (and maybe having seen something in him that pushed the Jackets to go and get him) will pay dividends.
As for three years from now, well, that's a bit of a crap-shoot. There are currently only four guys on the roster signed long enough to be on that team for sure: Umberger, Wisniewski, Tyutin, and Johnson. Obviously, you would hope young players such as Johansen, Atkinson, and Murray will be entering their primes.
Brassard will be an RFA in the summer of 2014, and by then he will have reached "now or never" status if he hasn't developed more. Anisimov is 24, and is an RFA this next summer; my guess is he'll be back, as otherwise the club probably wouldn't have gone after him in the trade of Rick Nash.
Here are some other names that may be on the horizon:
Tim Erixon - Defenseman who came over from the Rangers, and who is widely considered to be a top-four defenseman after he develops.
David Savard - Defenseman who made his debut last season, and showed small flashes of having an NHL ceiling.
Boone Jenner - Jackets' second-rounder from last year, he captained Oshawa of the OHL this past season and should make a long-term push for the Jackets' third line center for the future.
Michael Chaput - Made a huge stride forward in the Q this year after coming over from Philly in 2011 for Tom Sestito at the deadline. Chaput is a bit of a tweener, but could perhaps become a scoring line player in the future.
Oscar Dansk - the Jackets' second-rounder this year, the goalie went high in the CHL import draft and will hopefully be pushing to come to Columbus by 2015.
The question marks surround guys like Dubinsky, Foligno, Matt Calvert, and the like. Are those guys in the team's long-term plans? Of that, we can only wait and see how they play.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions! See you next week!