With the rights of James Wisniewski in hand, Columbus is in a tremendous position to lock down one of this years major defensive free agents to what I hope to be a long term deal. For all the hype centered around the Carter deal, this could easily match that based on the definitive need for a defensive player of Wisniewski's caliber.
Couple that with the fact that he is a right handed, powerplay capable, point scoring, versatile defenseman, and suddenly the Jackets are looking at two of the largest holes in the roster filled before July 1st. This is mind boggling to anyone sitting on the couch armchair GMing the Blue Jackets over the past decade, but with these two moves (assuming a deal can be struck), Scott Howson appears to have the fanbase eating out of the palm of his hand.
With that said, let me jump ahead a little bit and consider what is left, if anything, to make this team ready to take the next step not only into the playoffs, but beyond. Here are some quick hit thoughts about moves the team could make that would be CTF supported:
1 - Sign FA goaltender Josh Harding.. A guy who has not had the kind of success he would have hoped in Minnesota, but could easily push Mason when needed and probably only cost the team around 1.2-1.5 million off the cap. Adding another younger goaltender (Harding is 27) to the mix, Columbus would also start to show some mild form of goaltending depth, which is something the franchise currently lacks.
2 - Sign one more FA defenseman while the options are strong. I would prefer one of Erhoff, White, Greene, or Kaberle, probably in that order. By adding any of the four, Columbus is worlds apart from previous years and can do so without really pushing towards the cap ceiling which management will be pleased with. That leaves Tyutin, Methot, Clitsome, and Russell to fill the gaps, and give one of the youngsters an opportunity to play into the 7th position.
3 - Sign Jakub Voracek to an offer sheet. Seems like a strange option, but Philadelphia is going to have to get a bit creative to keep all of their potential RFAs under contract while pleasing everyone. If they offer Jake 3.13 million or less, the compensation would only be a second round pick. Pushing more towards 3.5 million would give them back a first and third round pick. In the end, that would mean Carter became a Blue Jacket for either 1st/2nd/3rd round picks, or two 1st round picks and a 3rd. Neither of those scenarios are what I believe to be overpaying for a first line center, and Voracek would be a fantastic addition with Carter and Nash on the top line, assuming his off-season efforts show positive gains.
4 - Deal Huselius and Pahlsson for dirty socks, or possibly even late draft picks. There are teams in the NHL who will struggle to meet the cap floor, and while Huselius is at the bottom of my list, he can absolutely score when given the puck. Pahlsson is a solid center who can play well on the penalty kill, but with the entrance of Carter and probably Johansen, his stock drops substantially for this team.
The forward line combos would then look a little something like this (give or take of course):
Nash - Carter - Voracek
Umberger - Vermette - Brassard
Calvert - Johansen - Kubalik
Mayorov - MacKenzie - Dorsett
The top line will be a force, with Nash and Carter scoring from every part of the offensive zone. Voracek will need to work on his entrance into the offensive zone, but I believe the space will be there to make easy passes in scoring lanes.
The second line will showcase excellent speed between Brassard and Vermette, while also providing the necessary grit in front of the net and in the corners from Umberger. This will be a great two way line.
The third line will be one of my favourites to watch. Three young players with lots of speed and hopefully a Calvert in 10/11 style of nothing to lose play. Certainly the line will have ebbs and flows throughout the season, but being in a third line role, the quality of the opponents they play will be decreased thanks to the top two lines, and it should give them the chance to move the puck.
The fourth line is exactly what it looks like on paper, with Mayorov being the exclusion. A line that can go out and brutalize opponents with energy, while having the offensive upside to score or bring the rest of the team the momentum.
Long summer ahead. I will wait for some more happenings before making my suggestions on the defensive side.
Carry the Flag!