Taking a look at this years TSN favourites for the upcoming free agency period made me really consider what Columbus should focus one outside of their obvious priority of re-signing Captain Rick Nash.
Based on TSN, their forward all free agent team includes;
Forwards – Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Marian Gaborik, Mike Cammalleri, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Brian Gionta, Mike Knuble, Nik Antropov
Defense – Jay Bouwmeester, Scott Neidermayer, Rob Blake, Mattias Ohlund, Johnny Oduya, Mike Komisarek, Sergei Zubov
Goalies – Khabibulin, Roloson, Biron
Now, I am fairly confident that while the Jackets have three solid centers in Vermette, Brassard, and Umberger, it might be a good idea to keep RJ on the wing with Vermette, and bring in another strong centerman.. That being said, the only sniper on that list is Koivu, which will likely mean many teams will be in the hunt to acquire his services. More importantly now, with the strength clearly being on the wing, the Jackets will need to consider their other options.
First and foremost, Columbus needs right handed players. Filling that void would be Gionta or Knuble. Personally, I would prefer having Knuble because of his consistency, which could add some serious depth to the roster. While the Jackets are in need of quality scorers, filling the gaps in the middle of the roster is an issue that has taken quite a few years to resolve.
I do not personally think that taking a risk on a player like Havlat is the best idea, but I would not mind enjoying the benefits of a healthy year for him. He is a prolific scorer that can wear his emotions on his sleeve, and can really bring a team together with his abilities on the ice. He would not be brought in for leadership, but he can certainly use his talent to lead by example. If he is willing to strike a reasonable deal, I would always welcome his (healthy) name on the roster.
Defensively, Columbus could use a healthy number one workhorse, which Klesla struggled heavily with over the last year. Certainly Bouwmeester could fill that void for the Jackets, but his hype could throw a huge shadow on his name considering the number he will likely command. I would prefer the Jackets avoided the older players unless they accept a short and reasonable contract number. Obviously some of the names on that list could really provide leadership, and that is something that was also questioned last year.
Obviously Steve Mason can not play another 78 game season (pro-rated from last year of course) but the Jackets should not be looking for high quality goaltending during free agency. Expect a mediocre goalie signed to a one or two year deal, allowing LaCosta to get one more year in the minors before coming up to support Mase.
I would love to hear what your thoughts are on this.. We are edging closer to some of the more exciting moments of the off-season, and I have not heard from any of you lately!
Carry the Flag!