After Tuesday's news that Derek MacKenzie had left the organization as a free agent to take term and money down in Florida, a lot of Blue Jackets fans were concerned about the impact to the team's bottom six - particularly for D-Mac's penalty killing / shorthanded threat.
The team's stated goal is that they expect at least one or two guys in the prospect pool to 'grow from within' and compete for the spots vacated by guys like MacKenzie, Jack Skille, and Blake Comeau, but they clearly have an eye out for potential fits from outside, too.
Case in point, today's Independence Day fireworks when the club announced that they've come to terms with former Pittsburgh C Brian Gibbons on a 1 year, 2 way deal.
The REALLY astute may recall Gibbons from when he was playing with Cam Atkinson back at BC, but for most of you that name sounds familiar because he shredded us in Game 2 against the Penguins before he left the game due to injury.
Gibbons spent about half the year in the AHL with W-BS and the rest up with the big club, where he put up 5 goals and 12 assists in the regular season, and added two goals (both against Columbus) and an assist in his 8 Stanley Cup playoff appearances.
As if that wasn't a pretty decent run, he then went back down to the Baby Pens after Pittsburgh was knocked out, and put up another goal and a couple more assists while helping them reach the AHL's Eastern Conference Final.
Not a terrible year for a guy who was hitting unrestricted free agency, and it's clear that he got Columbus' attention.
We haven't heard the money details yet, but since he was making $550k for the Pens last season, it's safe to assume he got at least a modest raise out of that. Edit: Capgeek is now reporting it as a 750k contract at the NHL level, and will pay him $300,000 in the AHL.
So where does he fit in Columbus? Undeniably a top line guy in the AHL, Gibbons has spent time on Sidney Crosby's wing...and he's spent time grinding out penalties or taking fourth line minutes next to guys like Marcel Goc and Craig Adams.
I am sure the organization would be pleasantly surprised if he sparks chemistry with someone like Ryan Johansen or Brandon Dubinsky in camp, but I suspect the plan is to have Gibbons push both Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu a bit. Like Letestu, Gibbons can play up the middle or on the wing, so it wouldn't shock me if some combination of those two and Tropp/D'Amigo/Boll/? ended up as the fourth line. Almost guaranteed to get PK minutes thanks to his skating ability and nose for opportunity, I also could see the coaching staff giving him a look on the second PP unit.
At very worst, Springfield just got a guy who can do stuff like this, and Columbus has a reliable first callup who can be slotted into virtually any role.
Oh - and a pretty significant thumb in the eye of their recent playoff opponent. Can't forget that.
Happy fourth of July, indeed!