Players signed through at least the 2008-2009 season including salary (players most likely to make the team and players who were full time or close to full time players last year)
LW – Rick Nash (6.5 million)
RW – Nikolai Zherdev (3.25 million)
LW – Fredrik Modin (3.5 million)
C – Alexander Svitov (1.25 million)
C – Manny Malhotra (1.5 million)
RW – Jakub Voracek (875,000)
C – Derick Brassard (850,000)
C – Gilbert Brule (765,000)
C – Jiri Novotny (800,000)
RW – Jared Boll (570,000)
LW – Jason Chimera (1.875 million)
D – Rostislav Klesla (1.65 million)
D – Duvie Westcott (1.85 million)
Fredrik Norrena (900,000)
All UFA’s (not including farm players)
RW – David Vyborny
D – Dick Tarnstrom
C – Michael Peca
D – Jan Hedja
D – Ron Hainsey
All RFA’s (not including farm players)
G – Pascal Leclaire
C – Dan Fritsche
C – Joakin Lindstrom
Projected lineup as stands(based on depth):
First thing’s first is to sign both FA’s Leclaire and Hainsey (if possible). The Jackets are very thin on the blueline and they must address this need first come July 1. They should look into another offensive defenseman and most importantly, a defensive defenseman who can log big minutes. From there, they can round out the top 6 with either a prospect or another free agent and than things should look a whole lot better on the back end.
The Jackets have alot of untapped offensive firepower, most notably Brule and their two big prospects Voracek and Brassard. However, they can not automatically count on them having big seasons if they are to play full time. The Jackets need to first look at some free agent centers as they are very young and unexperienced in that department. A legit center who can dish the puck to Nash and Zherdev is where they must look first, probably a center somewhere capable of 40+ assists every year, not a Mike Peca or Manny Malhotra. Nash and Zherdev are both capable of 40+ goals year in and year out, but both will never accomplish this at the same time without a #1 center. In other words, the Jackets need to look at how to squeeze more out of their star players first instead of just adding players, and getting a #1 centerman who is a pass first type player would work wonders, and this would eventually bump up a Malhotra or Brule who belong on the 2nd line, at least.
One area where the Jackets are fairly solid(besides goaltending) is the Wing position. Modin, Nash, Zherdev, Chimera and Voracek are all solid wingers and are all signed through 2008-2009. However, I would still look into another legit 20 goal scoring winger for the 2nd or 3rd line. The Jackets need to think depth offensively, especially with all the injuries last season and with all their young players who have yet to prove and may need need more farm time. If they can add a 20 goal scorer and maybe throw in two more 15 goal scorers, than I wouldn’t see many offensive holes.
The Blue Jackets staff is going to have their work cut out for them this offseason trying to fill out the roster and make a competitive team. The future is still bright for this organization, but they must try now to ice a team capable of making the playoffs as they’ve never been there before. I’m sure the fans are starting to get a little uneasy, but in a fairly weak division right now and a lot of cap space, the Jackets have to pounce on the opportunity before the emergence of the Blackhawks and Blues in the years ahead.
Overall Needs: Offensive d-man, defensive d-man, #1 center, solid scoring winger and offensive depth players (winger and center position).
Team grade right now: D
Team grade last year: C
Realistic grade they should aim for: C+, B-