The Stanley Cup Playoffs are starting to near their climax, while the Columbus Blue Jackets season has been over for almost a month now. It is time to start looking at what the Blue Jackets need to do to take that next step, so next season at this time we are still talking about Columbus Blue Jacket games that are currently being played.
The question that has me scratching my head is, should the Columbus Blue Jackets make a lot of moves this offseason? Could they make a few minor moves, or take the approach that standing pat would be best for this team as they continue to let them grow together? I will take a look at some of the moves they could make, and some of the things that I think might happen but shouldn’t happen.
We know R.J. Umberger has requested a trade, so that is a move that will probably happen sometime this offseason, but should that be the only move? Corey Tropp showed his worth to the Blue Jackets in the playoffs, as he stepped in and did his job making the Penguins uncomfortable with his hard-nosed style of play. Is he going to an integral cog on this team next year, or as Jarmo Kekalainen and Todd Richards said, do the Blue Jackets not only need to get faster on the ice, but faster with their decisions being made on the ice. Is Tropp going to be that player, or can he be a quality depth piece used when the inevitable injuries of the season rear their ugly head?
We heard at the trade deadline the mention of Cam Atkinson being used as trade bait, is that something that the fans would be comfortable digesting? I do not know if I could stomach that change easily, as taking him and Umberger off the team would account for 39 goals. We were 12th in the league in scoring during the 2013-2014 regular season, but losing 39 goals would drop us down to 29th. Cam is as fast as anyone on this team, and his decision-making has never made me angry, but he was scratched a few times to end the season. Could that be a move that is made?
Could the Columbus Blue Jackets use a another pure goal scorer the likes of Ryan Johansen? We gave Marian Gaborik a go, and the bottom dropped out of that bucket faster than anybody involved wanted it to. Does the style of play that suits this team fit a pure goal scorer? Gaborik seems to be doing pretty well in the heavy hitting style of play that the Kings play, why did it not work here? Were there just too many injuries for him to become acclimated here, or was the thought of having to sign a player probably looking at 4-5 million a season, coming of 2 major injuries too scary for the front office?
Nikita Nikitin will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, do the Blue Jackets cut ties with the often inconsistent defenseman? Nikitin is only 27 years old and could be headed into the prime of his career, or he could be headed into the middle part of a consistently inconsistent career. He made $2.5 million last year and will probably be looking for a pay raise, while we have a player like Tim Erixon itching to prove himself, and would be a pay cut as our 7th defenseman.
There is a long way until the start of the 2014-2015 regular season(sighs), and a lot of moves to be made. If it were me, I would grant Umberger’s wish and try to get something in return, as for Cam I would not even think about trading a player who could turn into the next Martin St. Louis. The thought of another pure goal scorer does entice me, however Jarmo and JD need to find the correct piece to add in that can fit with this current system being played. Maybe that means a player who can contribute 25 goals a year, but have the same grit as say a Brandon Dubinsky. Lastly, I would let Nikitin walk and move Erixon into the role of 7th defenseman, with the possibility of adding a Matt Niskanen through free agency, and keeping Erixon as quality depth that every great NHL team needs.
Either way, this is going to be an interesting offseason to say the least, and I will again put my faith in Jarmo and John Davidson to make the right moves. While continuing to help this team grow into the perennial contender that this fan, and this city want so badly to see.