How are we feeling this week? I always struggle this time of year, as I adjust to work after a long Christmas weekend, while waiting for the New Year’s holiday just a few days away. Of course, New Year’s won’t be the same this year without an in-person party with friends. Even New Year’s Day football doesn’t have the same appeal, with my two college teams being heavy underdogs in the playoff semifinals.
On the bright side, we’re just a week away from the start of Blue Jackets training camp. I have some burning questions to discuss:
When will PLD sign?
Star center Pierre-Luc Dubois remains unsigned as of this writing. Will a deal get made before the start of camp? I’m still confident that it will. One domino has fallen, with Anthony Cirelli signing a three year contract with the Lightning. The other benchmark would be Mathew Barzal, with PLD coming somewhere between those two players.
Where does Del Zotto fit?
On Christmas day, the Jackets announced a new signing: veteran journeyman defender Michael Del Zotto signed a tryout contract.
NEWS: #CBJ sign D Michael Del Zotto to a pro tryout contract. The 30-yr-old has 56-180-236, 272 PIM in 657 games w/ NYR, NSH, PHI, VAN, STL and ANA in 11 NHL seasons. The 6-0, 195 native of Stouffville, ON tallied 2-13-15, 14 PIM and was +5 in 49 GP with Ducks in 2019-20. pic.twitter.com/AAoP8CXRlt— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) December 25, 2020
He’s not a very good player, so it’s possible he’ll be like Jarrett Stoll a few years back, where he is a camp body but doesn’t make the team. It’s also possible he could be a fixture of the taxi squad.
With the high likliehood that players will miss time due to COVID (either testing positive or having exposure to a positive case), NHL teams will be able to have a taxi squad of 3-6 players who will practice and travel with the team to make last-minute roster changes easier. This also suggest that call-ups from the AHL will be less frequent. As a result, I expect developmental players to spend time in Cleveland where they can get frequent game action. The taxi squad could include veteran players whose development is not hindered by spending most games in the press box. This could be Del Zotto, and could also feature a guy like Scott Harrington, Adam Clendening, or Nathan Gerbe.
Stick taps for Mark Letestu
On Sunday, Aaron Portzline reported that the former Jackets center has announced his retirement after a 12 year NHL career. He missed the last season with a heart condition. He and his family now make their full time home in Delaware County, so it’s possible we haven’t seen the last of him around Nationwide Arena or elsewhere in the Columbus hockey scene.
How could you not love the way a guy like “Test Tube” played as a bottom six center? I’ll always remember when he scored a goal after being reacquired in 2018. That ended up being his final career NHL goal:
Some possible targets off the board
For those of us looking for the Jackets to make a last minute move to bolster the forward ranks, the opportunities are quickly vanishing. First, there was thought that a trade with Tampa could happen. Instead, they just dealt a couple players to Ottawa. Combined with Nikita Kucherov missing the season with a hip injury, they have some cap wiggle room now.
We have traded Braydon Coburn, Cedric Paquette and our 2022 second-round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the rights to Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson. https://t.co/3qkfKXdnaM— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 28, 2020
On the free agent front, the best player available was Mike Hoffman. I didn’t want to sign him for non-hockey reasons, but that is moot because he signed a PTO with St. Louis. It’s probable that he will sign a contract with the Blues after camp once they place Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR.
Mike Hoffman is joining the St. Louis Blues on a professional tryout contract and will join the team when training camp begins on Jan. 3.https://t.co/cpaoHOeAGp— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 28, 2020
World Juniors update
The world juniors are underway and there are CBJ prospects involved. Two scored this weekend, 2020 picks Mikael Pyyhtia and Yegor Chinakhov:
#WJC: Finns pouring it on as they increase their lead over Germany to 3-0 early in the 3rd. Credit C/W Mikael Pyyhtia (CBJ 4th/2020) with the goal and assists to LHD Mikko Kokkonen (TOR 3rd/2019) and RW Aku Raty (ARI 5th/2019). pic.twitter.com/9tdIyknZz2— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) December 26, 2020
When Chinakhov returns to his KHL team, he will be joined by a big name:
The week that was
The schedule came out on Wednesday. Which series are you most looking forward to? I think the Dallas-Florida-Tampa road trip in April will be decisive.
The Cannon Cast discussed how the return to play will affect the AHL and the Monsters, and discussed which business should have ads on the Jackets’ helmets.
Play me out
One last Christmas song for the season, from friend-of-the-pod Angela Perley: