Free Agency Looming: Forwards and Goalies

The Blue Jackets will likely add at least one forward through free agency, someone to fill in for the departure of Scottie Upshall and to give younger players like Matt Calvert a chance to develop in low pressure situations. Ideally, the Jackets want to add a player in the mold of an R.J. Umberger, or former Jackets Raffi Torres and Scottie Upshall, just at a better price. Someone who fits comfortably on the third line but is a bit of a "plus" player and can fill in for spot duty on the second line and even power play in the event of injuries.

Looking on the to goaltenders, the Jackets are looking for a capable backup with some experience to play behind Steve Mason. This could turn out to be a make or break year for Mason, but I’m sure they want to give him a fair shot with a better defense and reliable backup.

I had originally included Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen in this write-up, who have since re-signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.

I see the Jackets ideal pay being around $1.5 million to $2.5 million for a player in this position. Here are a few names that could fit the bill. Numbers provided by

Tyler Kennedy, LW

Pittsburgh Penguins

2010-11 Salary: $750,000

Status: Restricted Free Agent, not qualified by Pittsburgh, becomes UFA on July 1

2010-11 Stats: 21 G, 24 A, 45 PTS

Why Kennedy: Who wouldn’t like to see Kennedy streaking down the left wing with Ryan Johansen dishing a puck to him? A solid younger player that can grow with the Blue Jackets core group, but has winning experience with the Penguins.

Antti Miettinen, RW

Minnesota Wild

2010-11 Salary: $2.33 million

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2010-11 Stats: 16 G, 19 A, 35 PTS

Why Miettinen: Veteran experience. It shouldn’t be overlooked that the Jackets aren’t bringing back Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark, or Craig Rivet. Although the nucleus of the team is growing older and has gained some experience, the Jackets look to be getting younger overall this year. It’s important to keep a good balance of experience and potential.

Joel Ward, RW

Nashville Predators

2010-11 Salary: $1.5 million

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2010-11 Stats: 10 G, 19 A, 29 PTS

Why Ward: The big key with Ward is his experience. And when comparing him to Miettinen, Ward actually has playoff experience. He’s been a vital player in the Predators teams that Barry Trotz has led to overachieving the last three years. If there’s a guy that knows what it means to play with heart, it would be Ward. The main knock would be a question as to whether or not he brings enough of a scoring punch, but that may not matter.

Ray Emery, G

Anaheim Ducks

2010-11 Salary: $500,000

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2010-11 Stats: 7-2-0, .926 SV%, 2.28 GAA

Why Emery: Ray Emery has actually played pretty well and compiled decent stats his whole career, aside from his last season in Ottawa. The big question is the baggage; he’s famous for his attitude, but I’d argue the Jackets could use a little attitude now more than ever. He could push Mason and be more than capable of holding his own if the team needed to lean on him down the stretch.

Johan Hedberg, G

New Jersey Devils

2010-11 Salary: $1 million, with $500,000 in bonuses

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2010-11 Stats: 15-12-2, .912 SV%, 2.38 GAA, 3 SO

Why Hedberg: Outside of retaining Garon, Hedberg looks to be the most realistic option for a more experienced backup. The biggest downside I see here is that he’s never really been a part of a great team, and the Jackets would probably like someone they believe can push Mason to elevate his game.

Josh Harding, G

Minnesota Wild

2010-11 Salary: $1.2 million

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2010-11 Stats: Did not play

Why Harding: Former Wild head coach and current Blue Jackets assistant Todd Richards has certainly spoken to Scott Howson and given his opinion on Harding. A solid option of a player who comes from a team known for their tight defense, though he may not fare as well with the Jackets if they don’t upgrade their blueline. The fact that he lost the entire 2010-11 season to a knee injury makes this a risky bet.

Mathieu Garon, G

Columbus Blue Jackets

2010-11 Salary: $1.2 million

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2010-11 Stats: 10-14-6, .901 SV%, 2.72 GAA, 3 SO

Why Garon: A known quantity. He may end up getting an offer from another team that the Jackets just don’t have an interest in matching, and I think that’s why they’re letting him test free agency. While it’s said he played out much of last season with an injury to his arm, I think it’s time to try something new in Columbus.

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