Watching The Pot Simmer
With just a week to go before the NHL Entry Draft, the anticipation grows over deals and picks that may significantly impact the Blue Jackets' fortunes.
"A watched pot never boils" was one of my mother's favorite sayings. As patience has never been one of my greatest virtues, that saying just annoyed me. So it is in this most excruciating of weeks -- that awkward time between the awarding of the Stanley Cup and the Armageddon of off-season personnel moves. Most observers are predicting really active player movement between now and July 1, with more than usual activity leading into the draft. Let's take a quick look at what has happened and what might happen over the upcoming fortnight.
- With the official opening of the buyout window on June 15th, the Philadelphia Flyers wasted little time in exercising their buyout option with R.J. Umberger. R.J. had dramatically underperformed in his two seasons in Philly since being acquired from the Blue Jackets, and the prospect of dealing with his $4.6 million cap hit was too much. In two seasons, Umberger accumulated only 11 goals and 15 assists for the Flyers, while Scott Hartnell, who came to Columbus in the deal, has posted 51 goals, 58 assists in the same time frame, for a $4.75 million cap hit. Even though Columbus will likely move Hartnell this off-season, they were the clear winners in this deal.
- Just as the appearance of robins heralds the arrival of Spring, so does the first Chicago Blackhawks salary cap dump move signal the beginning of the silly season in the NHL. This time it was sending Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina in exchange for a second round pick this year and a third rounder in 2017. The Blackhawks have shed more talent due to the salary cap than most teams have seen on their rosters, and yet they still accumulate Stanley Cups at an alarming pace. Must have something to do with those Kane and Toews guys, eh?
- While no "official" announcement has been made, Garth Snow went on the radio and wished Kyle Okposo "nothing but the best". Sounds like the Islanders are done, and he'll be moving into the Free Agency First Flight, behind the Steven Stamkos Championship Flight.
- In the "no official announcement" category is the apparent agreement to add Brad Shaw to the coaching staff in Columbus. The offer was well publicized, but no decision had been publicized. Aaron Portzline reported it at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, and tweets from Shaw's son Brady and St. Louis broadcasters last night appear to confirm the deal. His has background with both John Davidson and Jarmo Kekäläinen, and John Tortorella reportedly tried to recruit him to Tampa Bay when Torts coached there. No word on title or term, but a solid addition to the organization.
- To ease anxiety, the Blue Jackets have announced that Seth Jones will be appearing at the Friday night draft party. I think it's unlikely that such an appearance would be scheduled and publicized without a deal being imminent. I expect something on this front soon.
- Returning to the buyout window, Blue Jackets fans should keep an eye on Fedor Tyutin and David Clarkson. Jarmo will likely be shopping Tyutin as long as he can (together with Scott Hartnell), in an attempt to get the best deal he can, and get some additional picks to compensate for the lack of 4th or 5th rounders this year. If a deal can be done for Tyutin, don't be surprised if David Clarkson is bought out. While his contract is not ideal for buyout, it would still save $3 million in cap hit over the next two years and another $1 million in the following two years. The penalty would be a $500K hit per year for each of the following four years. That also clears a protected spot in next year's expansion draft, which seems all but a done deal. If no deal for Tyutin can be engineered, he could also be bought out. That would save $5.8 million over the next two years, but would also involve a $1.45 million hit for each of the two following years. Tyutin would also clear a protected slot for the expansion draft.
- Of course, the BIG question on everyone's mind right now is what the Blue Jackets will do with the #3 overall pick. It is the nature of the beast with such picks that lots of speculation abounds about a trade, and this year is no different. Jarmo and Davidson have both admitted receiving lots of good offers for the pick, but have also pointed out that they would have to be REALLY good. to be tempting. Either way, the Blue Jackets will have more weapons in the lineup come this fall, but my money is still on them keeping the pick and selecting Jesse Puljujarvi. What I'll be interested in seeing is if they package the #34 pick and a player to get a center, either by trading up or trading for a player.
- For me, the most interesting part of the off-season is the prospect for the deal that nobody saw coming. It's always out there, and the climate seems ripe for such deals this year. The beautiful thing about these is their inherent unpredictability, so I can't say who or for whom will be involved. However, the Blue Jackets front office has shown both the willingness and ability to swing such deals, so don't be surprised.
- Finally, to absolutely nobody's surprise, the NHL is expected to announce expansion to Las Vegas for the 2017-2018 season. This means that teams will already be jockeying to adjust rosters in anticipation of the Expansion Draft, which will also make this off-season more intriguing than usual. I'm betting that Arizona relocates to Seattle or Portland in the near term, and that the other becomes the next expansion site. Figure Quebec City as being the home for a relocated Eastern Conference club. That will restore numeric harmony to the NHL. In the meantime, we will get clarity on the real Expansion Draft Rules.
The rumor mill will be working overtime during the next few weeks, and much of it will be outlandish. Follow my general rule: If Darren Dreger and/or Bob McKenzie don't confirm it, it didn't happen. We'll be there as the deals fall in place. Stay tuned.