Haven’t done a news round-up in awhile, so here’s what has happened since the end of the season:
Blue Jackets signings
Jarmo Kekalainen wasted no time in getting started on off-season business. Here are the players who have signed new contracts so far this off-season:
Kirill Marchenko (2 year ELC, $925,000 AAV): The second round draft pick from 2018 has put up 48 points in 80 games over his last two seasons in the KHL. The 6’3” 22 year old could be the big, skilled forward the roster needs. Hopefully joining a team with countrymates Vladislav Gavrikov and Yegor Chinakhov makes the transition easier.
Mikael Pyyhtia (3 year ELC, $897,500 AAV): A fourth round pick in 2020, Pyyhtia had a monster playoff in Liiga this spring, scoring 13 points in 18 games. He’ll spend at least one more year playing in Finland, and we’ll see if he can carry that playoff performance into the regular season before coming over to North America. He’s a bit undersized for center, but could be a useful, versatile bottom 6 forward.
Joonas Korpisalo (1 year, 1 way contract, $1.3M cap hit): I thought we’d let him walk, but apparently Korpi is comfortable here and thinks this is the best place to come back from hip surgery. Let’s see if he can play well enough — and get enough reps — as backup so he can be traded at the deadline and/or get a better contract next summer.
Marcus BJORK (1 year ELC, $925,000 cap hit): Bjork is a 24 year old right-handed defenseman who has been a regular in the SHL (Sweden’s top league) for the last four seasons. He is in line to join a new look blue line in Cleveland this fall.
Joona Luoto (1 year, two-way contract, $750,000 cap hit): The 24 year old, 6’3” winger scored 17 points in 14 playoff games last season. He spent two seasons in North America, mostly in the AHL. More importantly, he’s friends with Patrik Laine. Was this done as a favor to Patty?
Jack Roslovic (2 years, $4M AAV): A show-me contract that fits well for both sides. If Roslovic plays like a top 6 center, then he can cash in next summer or in 2024. If not, then the Jackets can trade him or let him walk.
Daniil Tarasov (3 year contract, $1.05M AAV): Tarasov’s contract is one-way, but costs the team $750,000 in 2022-23 and increases each year to $1.35M in 2024-25. The team can afford to keep in Cleveland as he recovers from hip surgery. He can get regular reps there, then eventually transition to back-up behind Elvis Merzlikins in the last two years of the contract. By the end, could he be challenging for the starting role himself?
Liam Foudy (2 year contract, $762,500 AAV): The 2018 first round pick has been a disappointment so far, but he has also faced his share of bad luck and bad timing. Thanks to injuries and COVID scheduling, he has played a total of just 37 NHL games and 41 AHL games in parts of three professional seasons. He is still on a two-way contract in 2022-23 but it becomes a one-way contract in the second year. He will still be an RFA when it expires.
Brendan Gaunce (2 year, two-way contract, $762,500 AAV): Did the Jackets really need to re-sign the 28 year old UFA? No. Do I mind that they did? Not really. He played really well in Cleveland, scoring 28 points in 39 games. He played 30 games for Columbus and was...fine. Not great, just...fine. Ideally he spends the chunk of the year in Cleveland. If he has to get called up, at least we know he can handle the role of 12th forward, and can be scratched as the 13th forward without hurting his game.
The following RFAs remain unsigned:
They have 17 spots remaining for standard player contracts and $21M in cap space. Some of these signings may not happen until after the start of the free agency period, though it’s likely the Jackets will want to get Laine signed before then.
Torts to Philly
Former Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella has accepted the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Flyers. Our colleagues at Broad Street Hockey have substantial coverage, including observations of his opening press conference, and notes that he’ll at least bring entertainment value and is a sign that the team is accepting mediocrity.
I’m probably still one of the most pro-Torts people here but I don’t like this hire. I think he could still have success somewhere, but I don’t the Flyers have the right roster for him. They were last place in the Metro with 61 points. The last playoff spot this season was Washington with 100 points. Torts can install discipline and a defensive system and certainly improve the overall play, but can he make up 39 points?
From 2015-16 to 2016-17, Torts improved the Jackets from 76 points to 108 points, but they also added talent like Werenski, Seth Jones, Josh Anderson, etc. The Flyers missed guys like Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, and Kevin Hayes for much of the season, but they also have to replace the production from former captain Claude Giroux. Will those veterans bounce back under him, or will they bristle at his “my way or the highway” approach? South Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau is a free agent, but will he want to play for a guy like Torts?
A Josh Anderson return?
Jeff Marek brought up something interesting on his radio show on Friday:
Jeff Marek (h/t @NHL_Watcher): “As wild as this sounds, I've always wondered about Columbus trying to get him back. As I look at that team and what that team needs, I've always wondered about Columbus saying I wonder if we can get Josh Anderson back?” #CBJ— CBJ Coverage (@CBJcoverage) June 17, 2022
To be clear, Marek hasn’t heard anything, he’s just speculating. His guest Elliotte Friedman clarified that he has heard nothing about Columbus inquiring about Anderson (though other teams have).
This kicked off a debate in The Cannon writers’ Slack channel. We know that Anderson was such a critical piece in the 2019 playoffs. We know that last season’s team clearly lacked a forward with that kind of physicality. Someone with that size, who can hit, skate fast, and score? That’s a rare combo.
My rebuttal, however, is that I’m not sure that particular version of Josh Anderson exists anymore. He had just 8.59 hits per 60 minutes at 5v5, which was his lowest since 2017-18 (he had just 6.68 then, but he was also on the top line for much of the season, and didn’t need to hit since his line had the puck). He took 7.57 shots per 60, which was the lowest shot rate since he became an everyday player.
In addition to the declining play, he is 28 years old now and carries a $5.5M cap hit for the next five seasons. Is he worth that commitment? Or are the Blue Jackets better off finding the NEXT BJA? A guy like Marchenko has the size and scoring ability; we’ll see if he can skate and hit anything like Anderson.
What do you think? Should we bring Andy back? Or is there a different free agent, prospect, or trade target who you think can fill the role?
Play me out
My favorite band came out with their first new studio album in over three years on June 3, and it was a great early birthday present for me. Tedeschi Trucks Band recorded a 24 song concept album that they’re releasing in four parts over the summer. The first part, Crescent, is a really strong start. It demonstrates the versatility of the 12-piece man and makes sure every piece is highlighted. They’re equally comfortable with the New Orleans-style shuffle of “Fall In” or the instrumental jam “Pasaquan” which brings to mind the Allman Brothers’ classic “Mountain Jam” (a song Derek Trucks got to play a lot while touring with ABB). My favorite song is the title track, which was composed by the band’s new keyboard player, Gabe Dixon, and sung as a duet between him and Susan Tedeschi. I love the vocal harmonies in the soft, slow early parts of the song, and then the way Susan’s vocals soar along with Derek’s guitar in the climax of the song.