Rumor Mill Running Hot
As predicted, the NHL rumor mongers are hard at work. Let's take a look at some of the latest and see if there is any meat on the bone.
As promised last week, the NHL Rumor Machine is picking up speed as we plummet toward the NHL Entry Draft on Friday, in Buffalo, New York. Let's look at some of the latest tidbits concerning the Blue Jackets.
Let's start with @SpectorsHockey -- aka Lyle Richardson
Rumor Roundup: #BlueJackets’ Foligno could be dealt to open cap space in Columbus | The Hockey News: https://t.co/IPWFTieqvL— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) June 20, 2016
I'll leave the reading of The Hockey News article to you, but it relies upon Ottawa columnist Bruce Garrioch as its source. Foligno, of course, came to the Blue Jackets from the Senators.
Meanwhile, Darren Dreger added the following grist to the mill:
CBJ continues to listen to interest in #3 pick, however, sources say CBJ would like to attach a contract, (Hartnell) for cap space...1/2— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 20, 2016
...CBJ still has to extend Seth Jones which will be costly. Also approaching offer sheet time and Jones could be prime target.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 20, 2016
CBJ is not unlike Edmtn or Van. When at least considering trading a top 5 pick you have to get full return. Don't get it, don't make trade.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 20, 2016
At first blush, you might read these and conclude that a) the Blue Jackets have their backs against the wall and are going to be forced to trade their #3 pick, and that b) Nick Foligno is on his way out. The former is certainly not the case, and the latter -- while possible -- seems unlikely.
Both the Richardson and Dreger items are good examples of how some very basic true statements can be cobbled together to create a somewhat dire impression. Sure, Seth Jones needs to be re-signed. If he went all the way to June 30 without a contract, he certainly could be the subject of an offer sheet. However, do either of these facts support drastic action by the Blue Jackets? No.
The Blue Jackets currently have about $4.8 million in cap space at the moment, and with the NHLPA exercising their 5% increase option on the salary cap, that brings the clearance to just about $8.4 million. At least two of Scott Hartnell, Fedor Tyutin and David Clarkson will be moved for picks or bought out, bringing the cap savings well above double digits, even if salary were retained. That is more than enough to sign Jones and Karlsson, and make a few other acquisitions, if they so desire.
The Seth Jones "issue" is really a red herring. Of course he needs to be signed -- but this is something that GMs deal with every day. The threat of the offer sheet is raised every year . . . and largely goes unrealized, due to the tremendous price that the offer sheet carries at current NHL salaries. The last meaningful offer sheet I can recall was in 2010, when the San Jose Sharks dropped one on the Chicago Blackhawks for Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Hawks matched, and it was quickly a non-story. There is more bark than bite to the offer sheet threat. Additionally, keep in mind that the Blue Jackets have put Jones front and center by having him appear at the club's draft party on Friday at Nationwide. Likely not a move you make if you are in the middle of a contentious negotiation.
Next, let's look more closely at Dreger's "revelation" that the Blue Jackets might want to pair Hartnell's contract with the #3 pick. This is Captain Obvious material. If the Blue Jackets were to move the #3 pick, it would inevitably be for one or more really good players (unless it was to trade up to #1 overall, of course). Those players do not come free, so it's equally obvious that some salary would have to go back in the other direction (or be otherwise disposed of) to make room for the new acquisitions. With Hartnell's recent waiver of his NMC, the job to connect the dots here is not a difficult one.
Nothing in Dreger's tweets suggests that the Blue Jackets are either likely to move the #3 pick or are under pressure to do so. Indeed, his final tweet again supports the obvious conclusion -- the Blue Jackets are entertaining offers and are moving the bar up as interest peaks, trying to see just how high the bidding can go. While Puljujarvi promises to be an outstanding player, there is a point where the offers simply become too good to pass up. The art of being a GM is knowing where that point is for any given player at any given point in time. If Columbus moves the #3 pick (and that is a BIG "if") it will only be for massive return.
Finally, let's examine the Foligno rumor. Historically, Garrioch has been no better than anyone else . . . and worse than many . . .in "predicting" moves. Have teams likely inquired about Foligno? Could be. Could one of those teams be Ottawa? Not unlikely. Does that mean that the Blue Jackets are either shopping him or trading him? Hardly. Remember, this is the time of year when "inquiries" become "discussions", and otherwise idle remarks are treated with undue gravitas. Could Foligno be moved? Of course. In a league where Wayne Gretzky was traded, anything can happen. Is it likely? Not from where I sit.
Foligno and Dubinsky are the veteran core in Columbus, and Foligno just completed his first season as Captain -- somewhat akin to getting the Titanic as your first ship. Between the train wreck of the season, the Johansen trade, the coaching change and other assorted misfortunes, it was a tough year for the new Captain. After waiting a long time to award the "C", I think it would send the wrong message to scuttle the leadership at this point. Again, with Hartnell, Tyutin and Clarkson likely candidates for transition, the fiscal need to move Foligno does not exist. So, given the intangible downsides of moving him, I think it's unlikely he goes anywhere. Sure, a compelling offer could come in, in which case the front office has little choice. In that case, it's a win for the organization.
In addition, there are some general rumors that the Montreal Canadiens are going after the #3 pick with some gusto. Hard to imagine the package that would do the trick, but you never know. It's only going to get nuttier as the week progresses. Just keep in mind that the Blue Jackets are largely in the driver's seat here, for a change. If something comes down, it will because they want it to. Stay tuned.