Ideally, the Jackets are able to trade both Scott Hartnell and Fedor Tyutin before the February 29th trade deadline. The likeliness of this to happen, however, is slim.
Hartnell has three more years left on his deal, with a cap hit of $4.75 million per season. That's a lot of coin remaining for a player who'll be 34 in April. Age aside, Hartnell has shown that he's still an offensive contributor, as he's currently tied with Brandon Saad for the team scoring lead. There are no doubt teams out there that would covet his combination of veteran leadership, physical play and abilities to create offense around the net, but these same teams may be scared off by his penchant for taking bad penalties and the remaining term on his contract.
If I'm the Arizona Coyotes though, I'd be interested in acquiring Hartnell. They are on the cusp of a Wild Card berth, and though they are 4-5-1 in their last ten they are still very much in the fight. They also have a whopping 15 (!) players who are in need of a new contract at the end of the season, so they'll need help to get to the salary cap floor. On paper he looks like he'd be a good fit alongside Mikkel Boedker and Antoine Vermette, or playing opposite of Shane Doan. Given Arizona's financial situation this could be one of the rare cap-era trades that wouldn't require money coming back to Columbus. A token pick, perhaps even a second rounder, would be more the expected return.
Trading Tyutin may prove to be the easier exercise, as he only has two years remaining at a hit of $4.5 million. That's second pairing money, and he's still a top-four defender on most teams. A team like Colorado, who's currently occupying the top Wild Card slot in the West, may be interested. The Avs have some cap space to work with, and could use the boost on defense. They'll be looking to pay Tyson Barrie this summer but they have Alex Tanguay's $3.5 million coming off the books. As this is as close to a salary dump as one could get without coming right out and saying it, the return would be minimal.
Though officially the Jackets ECHL affiliate is the Kalamazoo Wings, the organization (exclusively Lake Erie so far) has primarily used the Cincinnati Cyclones this season. The Jackets or Monsters have not used Kalamazoo at all, while the Vancouver Canucks organization has been using the K-Wings. I wouldn't be surprised if this summer the situation is formalized and the Cyclones join the CBJ/Lake Erie/#ALLofus family. The joint marketing and promotion between the Jackets and Monsters has been excellent, and it could only be positive to add the Cyclones to the mix.
What to do about Bob
I was asked by Copper & Blue to do a Q and A prior to Tuesday's game. One of the questions was about the Bob situation, here's what I had to say:
Part of me thinks the team should sit Bob for the rest of the season, but at the same time if he can prove that he's healthy he has to be playing. That said, he's claimed to be 100% before the last two groin injuries this season, so you just don't know when the next one's going to pop.
Like most Russians, he values the World Championships very highly, and will want to play for his home country in that tournament. He'll no doubt want to get some games in down the stretch to get himself up to game speed.
While he (and backup Curtis McElhinney) have been injured, the third and fourth goalies in the system- Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo- have put up very different results during their NHL stints. Forsberg has been so-so, while Korpisalo has been very good. It may be beneficial to Korpisalo's development to continue to get playing time, perhaps splitting with McElhinney when the latter returns to action soon.
At the end of the day, Bobrovsky is the Jackets' MVP. If he's healthy, he should be in the cage.
As most around here already know, I'm an avid fan of Canadian junior hockey and I follow it quite closely, especially the QMJHL. I put special emphasis on the teams that have CBJ prospects on their rosters. I can't think of a season in the past where I've been less excited about the prospect group playing in the CHL. This isn't to say it's a bad group - far from it - it's just a combination of a lack of star power, players playing in outposts like Prince George, and the fact that none of the group is having a "Wow!" season that has me down.
There's still a lot to like though:
Paul Bittner is a player that I'm excited as hell about (I consider him a minor draft steal), but he's been out since before Christmas thanks to hip surgery. He had a really great shot at joining Zach Werenski on Team USA at the World Juniors, but had to miss the tournament. Bittner was just under a point-per-game pace before the injury.
Keegan Kolesar is having a solid season for the T-Birds in Seattle, putting up 52 points in 49 games, to go along with 89 PIMs. He's developed into one of the top power forwards in the WHL, playing on a line with Islanders first rounder Mathew Barzal.
Sam Ruopp is the captain of the Prince George Cougars of the ‘Dub. He's a defenseman. I have no access to Cougars games, therefore I can offer no insight. I'm sure he's A-OK, though.
Blake Siebenaler and Kole Sherwood are the OHL kids, and while Sherwood is playing on a loaded London Knights squad (and contributing), Siebenaler, who's known for his point production, is scoring at a lower rate than he was last season. Now, this happens often with junior defenseman as they round out their games, so I'm not overly concerned. I just would have figured that on a talented IceDogs squad he could crank up his point totals.
Olivier LeBlanc and Julien Pelletier are the QMJHL reps in the organization, and both need to be signed by June 1st of this year to maintain their rights. LeBlanc is one of my favourite prospects in the pipeline, playing here in Nova Scotia for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. I think at the end of the day he'll get signed, but Q defensemen are often hard to gauge. Pelletier on the other hand, is putting up the expected offense of a player of his age and tenure. He's bounced around the league a bit, and though he's having a nice bounce-back year with Sherbrooke this season I can't see the team offering him an ELC.