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Mark Letesu – Buy Low, Don’t Sign High

If the Blue Jackets can point to an unqualified success story so far in the 2013 season, it has to be Mark Letestu. Leading the club in goals and tied for second overall in points, it’s quite a ways from leaving Western Michigan as an undrafted free agent.

Finishing the second year of a 2 year, $1.3 million dollar deal that he originally signed in Pittsburgh, he’s going to be looking for a new deal, and there are reasons to want to keep him in Columbus. (And before you freak out, yeah, it’s only 13 games and I’m talking about resigning a pending free agent, but we’re also looking at a season that ends in two months. There’s no such thing as too soon for these discussions.)

Versatile, hard working, and defensively responsible, “Test Tube” seems like the poster boy for John Davidson and Todd Richards’ vision of how the Blue Jackets should play. On the other hand, as much as I’d love to say “Well, if he works out to a 28 point guy in 46 games, he’d probably be a 50+ point guy next season”, the math doesn’t add up.

First off, we have to consider that Letestu is rocking a 25% shooting percentage at the moment, which is insane. Last season, Steven Stamkos won a Hart trophy on the back of a 20% shooting percentage, and even if Letestu can somehow sustain his success over the shortened season, it’s beyond unlikely that he’ll do it again next year, especially since shooting percentage, unlike wine, tends to degrade with age.

On the other side of the coin, in his past two seasons in the NHL, he’s managed 52 points in 125 games. That’s respectable production from a guy who tends to be used in a bottom six role, and it looks like that if he’s getting consistent levels of ice time, he’ll reward you with relatively consistent production.

If Letestu wants to be here, let’s make a reasonable offer to keep him in the fold. Guys like Blake Comeau and Colby Armstrong have similar roles, similar levels of production, and similar paychecks – averaging $1.25 million a year, which would be a healthy raise from Letestu’s current salary levels. Giving him two more years (which should be some of his prime production time) at the same rate seems pretty reasonable, and pays him at a similar level to Derek Dorsett, but above guys like Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll.

Will it happen? Hard to say, since we don’t know if Letestu would prefer to test the market or not, but it seems like a fairly reasonable possibility.