CapGeek.com the CBJ have $2.691 million left under the cap. The Vezina Trophy winner is signed. Our prized free agent, Nathan Horton is signed. We have our backbone, and we have upgraded the top six in the scoring department, well, at least after Christmas. So where do we stand?
The last time we were a cap team we finished thirtieth, dead last in the league. So in that regard, there is nowhere to go but up. But the other thing is that at this point, we don't really even have the team that we had next year. Nathan Horton will return after Christmas, and bring a welcome addition for the stretch run, giving the CBJ an ability to elevate their play in the second half of the season. But there is that pesky first half of the season, the same one that scuttled all of our hopes before Halloween the last time we were a cap team. And, we still have not signed our top scorer from last year, Vinny Prospal. If you are a reader of this space, you know that Tom and I have been agitating for Vinny's return, almost to an embarrassing degree. But since I have no shame, I'll say that it was refreshing to see Jarmo's words on the Blue Jackets web site yesterday that they were strongly considering all that Vinny brought to the team, and how that was going to work with the cap (couldn't find the link, sorry).
From a personal standpoint, I think Vinny is a critical piece for the team going forward. We can't afford to lose the scoring he will bring, especially in the first half of the season. Actually, its almost ideal, as Vinny's aging body starts to betray his indomitable will, Horton will come off IR, and take the pressure off Vinny. We certainly can't afford to give up the leadership he brings, the ability to show the young players how to balance fun and hard work. That's irreplaceable. The real problem is that if you add his salary from last year ($2.5 million I believe) to this year's payroll then we have roughly $100k in cap space left. Not enough if you run into injuries and need to bring people up from the AHL. That is really tight, and not at all workable.
However, the good folks at CapGeek also have Ryan Murray included in that total, at a $3.49 million cap hit. If Murray starts the year in the AHL, that's not on the books. And honestly, there is no reason to rush Murray. Defensemen take a while to get their feet under them, and he didn't get to play the second half of last year. So from a developmental standpoint, I'd much rather see him start the year in the AHL. Then if injuries occur, and they need to bring him up that's fine. But I would rather see him in the good hands of Brad Larson down in Springfield to start the year. Plus there is a huge cap benefit.
Which gets me back to my fixation with Vinny. I think he is the catalyst for the mental toughness the team displayed down the stretch in 2012-13, something that they will need in spades their first year in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. (I'm done with Division D, it lacks class)
Jarmo wanted to wait for this point before he signed Vinny. I understand that, it makes sense. But its time to get him in the fold. Get this one done Jarmo, its time to negotiate a contract with Vinny that works. It's a big one.