Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Stan Fischler at the Hockey Journal,
Scott Howson’s Blue Jackets haven’t created any major headlines lately but the ex- Oilers aide may be putting together the NHL’s sleeper team of 2008-09. There may not be an All-Star among the roster additions but there’s plenty of substance. Between R.J. Umberger, Kris Huselius, Raffi Torres, Mike Commodore, Fedor Tyutin and Chris Backman, Columbus has a neat nucleus with which Ken Hitchcock can work. If Pascal Leclaire matures as a No. 1 goalie and Russian whiz Nikita Filatov lives up to his notices, the pieces for a playoff team will be in place.
more hockey bits,,,
Columbus fans submitted question for GM Scott Howson at Puck-rakers,
Q: Are the Jackets done adding NHL-caliber players to the roster for the offseason? The team is still nearly $9 million under the cap and there are teams out there looking to shed payroll. Has your phone been ringing a lot? Are you more likely to save that money in case you need it at the trade deadline?
A: “We are likely done adding NHL caliber roster players until we get through training camp and get a better feel where some of our young players are with respect to being ready to contribute at the NHL level. If possible, I believe that a NHL team should not operate close to the cap. You need flexibility to deal with injuries and opportunities that may arise. It is very quiet right now as it usually is in August but we are ready for any opportunities that may come our way.”
The Blue Jackets have invited defenseman Richard Matvichuk to training camp as a non-roster tryout. The team is still awaiting word on whether the 35-year-old Matvichuk will accept.
He most notably made two Stanley Cup finals appearances with Ken Hitchcock in Dallas in 1998-99 and 1999-2000, but has played in only one NHL regular-season game in the past two years.
Matvichuk missed all but one game of the 2006-07 season recovering from back surgery. Last season, he played 42 games with New Jersey’s AHL affiliate Lowell, contributing a goal and three assists.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
It is great sport to engage in dog-chase-tail arguments over whether Howson extracted good value in every trade or paid too much for this free agent or that one. But to do that would be to miss the big picture, and the big picture is this:
At last season’s prices, about $18 million went out the door, all told. At this season’s prices, about $20 million was imported. Essentially, the money spent on the deals washed out—and the team was upgraded. Which is to say that Howson’s plan was an intelligent one, and well-executed.
There is a greater depth at forward. Nash, a 60-point scorer, now has a 70-point guy in Huselius on the other wing. The second li, ne looks like Fredrik Modin-Derick Brassard-Torres.
Goaltender Pascal Leclaire has signed a three-year contract worth $11.4 million with the Blue Jackets, The Dispatch has learned.
The deal will pay Leclaire $3 million this season, $3.6 million in 2009-10 and $4.8 million in 2010-11.
added 5:22pm, from the Columbus Blue Jackets,
“We’re very happy to have signed Pascal to a new contract that will keep him with the Blue Jackets for the next three seasons,” said Howson. “He is an important part of our team and we think he will continue to improve and play a significant role in helping us reach our goals.”
Aaron Portzline at Puck-rakers writes:
Apparently, Nick Kypreos reported on Sportsnet last night that the Blue Jackets were going to trade defenseman Jan Hejda and a fourth-round pick to the Flyers for winger Mike Knuble.
This is ridiculous. This is crazy. This will not happen. Not a chance.
Well, that seems pretty definitive. Although this doesn’t stop the kids on HF Boards from tackling the rumor from every angle they can think of as well (and Kypreos doesn’t fare too well there either.)
Must be a slow day in rumor land.
from Tom Reed at Puck-rakers,
Hitchcock loves the word “compete.” He peppers interviews with it and uses it much like Nash, in every situation. Adjective, adverb, noun, verb, you name it. It is Hitch’s go-to, four-tool word. Last season, he didn’t believe he had enough competitors to fit his demanding style.
He can’t use that excuse this fall. He’s banking on an increased intensity level to help with the scoring until the home-grown talent such as Jakub Voracek and Derrick Brassard ripens.
The Jackets didn’t have a fourth double-digit goal scorer last season until Dan Fritsche recorded his 10th goal on March 14. That’s astonishing.
from the mailbox of Ray Stein of the Columbus Dispatch,
Mr. Stein: I’ve lived here for 10 years and am still amazed when Buckeyes fans get threatened by the local NHL team. I’ve come up with several theories why:
1. They don’t like to share “their town” with anybody—maybe state government should leave, too; 2. They don’t like it that people in “their town” couldn’t care less about Ohio State and the football team. 3. They have a growing inferiority complex based upon their shortcomings.
Ten bucks (sorry for the pun) says Beyer will be more than willing to share “his town” and jump on the Blue Jackets bandwagon when the “misfits” become winners. Hopefully we won’t choke in the big game….
from Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch,
The franchise’s most marketable player lauded the offseason roster makeover but made no declarations about his long-range future here other than to express his continued affinity for his adopted hometown. He labeled the coming season a “huge year” in terms of franchise growth.
“It’s always in your head obviously about (where) your following years will be,” said Nash, who scored 38 goals last season. “I’m happy in Columbus; I love it in Columbus. I would stay here if everything lined up right.”
Reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history might make Nash’s decision easier and possibly curb speculation that he plans to bolt for a larger market such as Toronto.
from Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch,
In Columbus, he hopes to finally live up to his title as a stay-at-home defenseman. The contract Commodore signed—$18.75 million over five seasons—would seem to indicate as much. The deal’s first two years include a no-trade clause.
“I’m looking forward to staying in one place for a while,” Commodore said. “That would be nice. I’d like to take a break from moving and establish some roots if I could.”...
Some critics, however, say the Jackets overpaid for a defenseman with 14 career goals and 49 assists in seven seasons spanning 296 games. The Hockey News labeled it the fourth-worst signing of the summer.
“I’ll be the first to admit I got a very good contract for myself,” Commodore said. “I know (NBC and TSN analyst) Pierre McGuire ran his mouth up there, which is no shocker. I don’t set the market. If you take what I’ve done in the last three years and take my comparables ... I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination it was an unfair contract.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at email@example.com