NHL Free Agency officially starts at noon today, July 1st. The biggest storyline surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets heading into Free Agency 2014 is center Ryan Johansen. But other than Johansen, what will the Blue Jackets’ free agency look like? General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he expects free agency to be a “wait-and-see” process for the Jackets this year, per bluejackets.com. He doesn’t seem ready to make any big acquisitions, unless of course one happens to come his way. Nothing compared to last year, when the Jackets snagged one of the biggest free agents of 2013 in signing Nathan Horton to a deal.
Horton, however, has been a bit of a disappointment for the Jackets since they got him (read our article on this here). Could that be affecting their reluctance to make any big signings this year? Possibly. The Jackets have a history of not getting along with star players, which might be part of the reason Jarmo and his staff are shying away from signing any of the big guys this year.
Examples come by way of two names most Jackets fans would like to forget: Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik. Both were star players, or at least the Jackets expected them to be. Once they got here, though, they stopped looking like the players everyone knew they could be, which was a major disappointment. Basically, they flopped. And then Carter goes to LA and wins the Stanley Cup. Then, we send Gaborik to join him, and they win the Cup. Not what we wanted.
This season, however, the Jackets didn’t have any big name players. Marian Gaborik was still in the lineup for a bit, but he was injured so much it didn’t really matter. The only guy they still had was Horton. And, like Gaborik, he was injured frequently. When he did play, his play was measly at best. And the Jackets made the Playoffs. Best season in franchise history.
The Jackets seem to have developed an identity of young, somewhat unknown players who work their butts off and match the play of the best players in the league. And it works for them. Jarmo knows that. He knows what this team has been able to do as its players fly under the radar. He doesn’t need a Sidney Crosby or Jeff Carter to make his team successful.
All that to say, this free agency will likely be a quiet one for the Jackets. They have a solid team of young players, and a deep base to fall back on in Springfield if need be. They have no need of big name free agents who will take up cap space and likely disappoint the fans when they get here.The focus of free agency for the Jackets this year needs to be in resigning their young players. Headline number one, obviously, is Ryan Johansen (if you haven’t read our articles on his free agency qualms you can find them here and here). Outside of Joey, the Jackets have Tim Erixon, Cody Goloubef and David Savard to consider. They recently resigned Dalton Prout and Frederic St. Denis to new contracts, which is a good start.Now they need to work on signing the rest of the guys to agreeable contracts, and figure out what they want to do with Johansen.
For the Jackets, this year’s free agency focus needs to be on keeping what we have, not getting what we don’t need.