While trade rumors fly around like trade rumors at the trade deadline, a little news did break out of the CBJ camp today. The Columbus Blue Jackets sign Mark Letestu to a 2 year $2.5 million dollar contract. To me, this signing identifies the kind of contracts we might see from John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen as we approach the offseason. This signing is actually pretty significant considering the amount of RFAs and UFAs the Blue Jackets have coming up at the end of this season. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to hear the conversations between uber-loyalist majority owner McConnell and John Davidson as he looks to turn this team around.
And then there was one...
Mark Letestu is worth $1.25 million a year to the Columbus Blue Jackets. I would have given him $6.25 million dollars a year for 3 years, then again, I learned the NHL front office by watching Phil Esposito. Perhaps that wasn't the best front office role model. But, the Letestu signing, to me anyways, means that JD is taking a very realistic approach to signing players. What makes Letestu unique is his versatility. He'll play it anyway you want it. Defensively responsible, Left side, right side, up the middle, physical, fore check from hell, on the point, you name it. Pretty much any way you want it. But, despite my Letestu musings, his goals are a lot different than say Anisimov's goals. Anisimov generates offense, Letestu capitalizes on chances, and capitalizes well. By that measure, while Letestu offers unique flexibility, he's really not the focal point of an offense. So I get the 1.25 million number he got. The two year length says to me that both sides are willing to evaluate Mark Letestu's worth in 2 years, which is good for both sides. JD and Jarmo didn't get emotional with the feel good story of Letestu.
NHL calamity in the background, me happy as a lark
while on the phone with an emotionally stable JD.
But this got me thinking, there are three RFA's in particular that have me wondering what kind of offers they are going to get: Atkinson, Calvert, and Anisimov. There is a fourth, Bobrovsky, that I will save for last.
JD and Jarmo have shown with the Letestu signing that they aren't going to get all caught up in what "might be" with player contracts. I kind of like that. They didn't get over emotional like me, and to be honest, this is about as good as it gets for Letestu's production. If he stays a 40-50 point a year guy, he'll probably get a bump in salary in two years. But what happens when other teams start calling on our RFAs? JD has shown us they won't get emotional with signings, which now has me loweing my expectations on qualifying offers to these fan favorite RFAs.
Let's look at Matt Calvert. To paraphrase my father, effort gets you on the team and results keep you on the team. "Matty Hustle" for sure. Matty Consistent? I dunno. I see Calvert flying around the ice, banging bodies here, diving for pucks there. I see a kid willing to do anything to make the team. Hell, he even fought once. But, if he receives a qualifying offer. I don't see Calvert's qualifying offer being much higher than the minimum. If Calvert ends up making more than $800k a year, I'll be shocked or he'll be in a Flames uniform. I think what Jarmo an JD see now is what they get from Calvert at anytime in his career. Verdict: Give Calvert a minimum Qualifying offer - don't get crazy matching offer sheets over the QO minimum.
Cam Atkinson. He's been playing on a gimpy wheel most of this season. When I do see Atkinson, I see an exceptional NHL caliber shot with time and space, good smarts, but in a small frame. I think the potential for Atkinson is higher the Calvert, but I don't see this front office putting too much stock potential on 3rd and 4th rounders coming out of their entry level contracts. I think if you take a chance on Atkinson, $1.25-$1.5 million per season cap hit is as high as you go on Atkinson in a bidding war; only trying to sucker someone out of draft picks. I'm not sure he's worth that, and the compensation to the Jackets would be something the front office weighs. The Jackets have $7 million tied up in Dubinsky and Foligno to bounce between the second and third lines which doesn't leave much when you consider the next two RFAs. Verdict on Atkinson- offer $950k/yr and hope he bites for 2 years. Again, no emotion from JD or Jarmo on this one. #CAMsanity
Artem Anisimov - the kid generates offense. He's shown that he's capable of 15-20 goals a year in the NHL. His goals are streaky, but they are pretty. I'd like to see him pass less when he's in the Red Zone and shoot more. He is the one player of the three so far that has the most tweaking needed in his game, and it's all mental. I see him outsmarting himself more than he needs to, which seems to be a flaw in the Russian genetic code. With some cap room, more so if the CBJ shed some weight, maybe we give Anisimov a $3 million a year qualifying offer and consider matching offer sheets upto 4 million? If someone makes an offer sheet at 4 million and I hope JD and Jarmo take the picks. But, there is another Russian to consider, one without mental issues...
I don't know why I pass puck to Dorsett instead of
shoot puck into goal.
Sergei Bobrovsky is an RFA after this season. Philadelphia's complete lack of being able to find a starting goaltender since Bernie Parent is going to cost the Blue Jackets a lot of money. How much? I don't know. There will be suitors for Bobrovsky and I do expect offers from other teams to make it tough on the Blue Jackets. And honestly, since the Jackets have only had one RFA worth anything in their history, this stuff is still mostly theoretical to me. Bobrovsky has played well in three NHL seasons, so their is less guess work on determining his upside. Where the Qualifying offer starts will determine how crazy other teams will get with offer sheets. Is Bobrovsky worth a couple of first rounders to, say, Toronto? I think an offer of $4.5 million a year keeps all but the craziest of teams away and is a wise investment considering how hard it is to find a good goalie these days. Signing him to an extension early also keeps the wolves from the door. If another team offers $5 million a year, is it worth entertaining a couple of first round picks as compensation? You probably want to lock up Bob early if you can. This will be the first true test of Jarmo and the only one of the RFA crop that you pay a premium to keep. Duh.
If the Jackets are going to keep Anisimov and Bobrovsky, they likely need to dump two of the three following NTCs - Umberger, Tyutin, and Wisniewski to keep plenty of breathing room for growth and sustainability of the franchise in future years. I have to believe Wisnieski is getting shopped by JD and Jarmo like a Honda Accord with 0% for 72 months. If the CBJ only move one of those three lumbering contracts, it means they move Dubinsky or Johnson - but I'd like to see these three stay put if possible. Brassard is going to be shopped, his value as a penalty kill is non existent these days. There's only a year left on his contract so buying out Brassard would be silly - put him on waivers then. It's worth noting that Ryan Murray is a $3.2 million dollar cap hit the second he plays in Columbus. The Jackets aren't in immediate cap danger, and if they move two of the three less favorable contracts, the cap is a non-issue for a while.
I don't expect much movement from the Jackets at the trade deadline, unless it's to move a guy with a NTC to an emotional buyer - which is likely to only be Wiz or Tyutin. As far as acquiring at the deadline, the only teams who would deal a scorer for a draft pick at the deadline are the teams not making the playoffs and that list now excludes the Sharks and Stars. The two buyouts the Jackets are able to use before the 2013-2014 will keep them from being in any immediate cap danger, especially if they do land another lottery pick this season. At least the Letestu signing shows me JD and Jarmo won't do something emotional or over pay on guys that truly aren't difference makers. That makes dealing with all these dollars and cents "what ifs" a lot easier to deal with.