The Blue Jackets trade bait, months ago it seemed simple enough, pretty much everyone was on the chopping block ( those not named Johansen, Nash, or Carter.) And then it comes the month of the trade deadline, and The Blue Jackets… start to play pretty decent hockey. Right now at 3-3, but, changing one clock error and two bad first periods, the record could be quite different. Now, the decisions get hard with, who do we really want to get rid of, even with this improved play? Because that play, may not last. And with management, apparently, a “nuclear” solution is on the way.
It’s easy to look at a Sammy Pahlsson and see the guy is clear trade bait. A UFA at the end of the year, and a forgettable year at that. To a cup contender, he means something, to this team, he doesn’t mean much in this upcoming “nuclear” rebuilding phase. At one time, the team thought they were players, even one coaching change, away from being contenders, and that, just proved to be false.
Things got interesting with Vinny Prospal, once thought to be the biggest piece Columbus could offer, now, a Blue Jacket for the remainder of his career. When you look at this at first it’s like “what are they doing?” But when you look closer, if the team is going through a “nuclear change”, Prospal is the guy you want looking after the newcomers, rookies, or otherwise.
Now you look at guys like RJ Umberger and Antoine Vermette, both have had pretty rough seasons, but in February, both have picked up their game. During this month, Vermette has 4 points, Umberger has 2. Vermette has been the better of the two, making some great passing plays, as well as netting goals. Umberger, aside from the game against Minnesota, has been invisible this month. He puts some shots on net, but, nothing really seems to get accomplished. This has to make you wonder, when it comes down to it, who do you get rid of? Umberger has 5 years left on his contract, is a positive in the lockerroom, but is he worth $4.6 million ON the ice? Vermette has 3 years left on his contract, a steady point getter on the ice, and at about $900,000 less than Umberger.
Then there’s the big question…. Will they? Or won’t they? Rick Nash and Jeff Carter, are they as good as gone? Is this the core of the “nuclear” change? A few have speculated that it is. Rick Nash, not having a bad season by any means, is still the main target point of much trade speculation. Nash would be a big draw in any market, and surrounded by a whole new team, the possibilities of what he could do are endless. But does anyone want to blow up their current team to acquire Nash, and the big contract he comes with? And does Nash truly want to leave the team? Jeff Carter, has just had a rough season riddled with injuries, and while his game has picked up tremendously, he has been the target of trade speculation since, well…. since he was traded to Columbus. Is Jeff Carter really unhappy? Does management really want to give up on him already?
Now there are the new guys, Colton Gillies and Nikita Nikitin. Should The Blue Jackets bring them back? Gillies has a great energy on the ice, and is easily playing the best hockey in his career (Took him 3 seasons to hit 10 points with Minnesota, he has 5 in 12 games in Columbus.). If another skilled left winger is brought in, the last spot he, and Ryan Russell may have to fight for. Nikita Nikitin on the other hand, has played some pretty good hockey, and has had a career year stat wise, now injured (After Zetterberg didn’t push him into the boards), this is a guy Columbus could gamble and win on with a contract. Or, with this new rebuild, will both Gillies and Nikitin be let go?
Oh the ever changing goalie situation, it has been something to see. At one point, the thinking was it would be Mark Dekanich taking the reigns and battling Steve Mason for the #1 job. Instead, it turned into the Curtis Sanford show. Dekanich, done for the season, his time is likely up with The Blue Jackets. Curtis Sanford, now injured, is the real enigma in all of this. Should he be re-signed into the backup role for a new #1? He has played pretty well this season, not bad for a guy who hasn’t seen NHL action in 2 years. Steve Mason, by all likely hood, will be dealt or bought out. He has had one brilliant start in February, but that cannot change the minds of the guys watching upstairs, he has run out of time to prove himself. While it’s not all his fault, sometimes, that is just the way it works out, and the team just can’t wait for him anymore.
February 27th, the beginning of something new, something exciting. For too long the fans have waited for success, and ownership has finally decided the time has come to try to right the sinking ship (which they thought they were doing all along.). Will this be a trade deadline only event? No, it can’t be, if this is going to be something “nuclear”, this could take all the way until the start of next season. Either way, all you can do as a fan, is just wait for the fallout, that being The 2012-2013 Columbus Blue Jackets. Prepare yourself for anything, and everything.