Latest on the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, plus a look at the status of some pending UFAs.
Highlights from Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts.”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman touched on the Columbus Blue Jackets futile attempts to land a defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll touch more on that below.
The Chicago Blackhawks are shopping for a defenseman, but that won’t be an easy move with their limited cap space. They might call up promising Ville Pokka. A rival club apparently expressed interest in Pokka but was rebuffed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman wrote this before it was revealed Blackhawks star defenseman Duncan Keith will miss four-to-six weeks recovering from knee surgery. It could increase their pursuit of a depth defenseman, though whoever they find won’t replace what Keith brings to their blueline. My guess is they’ll carry on with what they have for now, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Pokka gets called up.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson might be available later in the season if promising Colton Parayko maintains his current pace. Gunnarsson is a UFA next summer. Friedman also wonders if the Carolina Hurricanes might move defenseman Ryan Murphy, whose entry-level contract expires next summer. Murphy has struggled to hold a spot on their blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Friedman noted, Gunnarsson won’t be going anywhere while Kevin Shattenkirk is currently sidelined. Perhaps he moves later in the season. Murphy has really struggled to reach his full potential with the Hurricanes. At 5’11” and 185 pounds, he’s an undersized blueliner, but the Hurricanes could remain patient with him.
Friedman also wonders how the new contract for Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec (two years, $12 million) could affect New York Islanders center (and pending UFA) Frans Nielsen, who historically isn’t a big point producer. Sames goes for the effect of Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler’s new deal (six years, $41.25 million) could have upon comparable centers and potential UFAs like St. Louis’ David Backes and Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Plekanec’s and Kesler’s new contracts will have ripple effects upon this summer’s crop of comparable UFAs. It remains to be seen if the Islanders, Blues and Jets will pony up similar deals for Neilsen, Backes and Ladd.
Blue Jackets seek a defenseman.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien cited TSN’s Bob McKenzie reporting Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is in the market for a top-two defenseman. McKenzie expressed skepticism Kekalainen will find such a blueliner this early in the season, when most teams are still evaluating their rosters. The Jackets GM is unwilling to move promising youngsters Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also touched on the Jackets’ futile efforts thus far to bolster their defense corps. “There are two problems. First, when you’re struggling, other GMs throw anvils instead of life jackets. Second, it can be very difficult to find trading partners this early.” Friedman speculates the Jackets might inquired about Anaheim Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore, but he doubts the Ducks part with him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Kekalainen wants a top-two blueliner, he’ll have to overpay. And if he does that, it could be a move that hurts the club down the road. If there’s no trade to be made, the only other option is a coaching change.
** UPDATE** The Blue Jackets fired head coach Todd Richards this morning, replacing him with John Tortorella. Details in the “News” section.