Winners and Losers. . .So Far
The Columbus Blue Jackets have never made the Stanley Cup playoffs in seven years of trying, the only NHL club never to have played a post-season match.
It's about time they tried to fix that problem.
And so, it's fair to say the moves made by Columbus GM Scott Howson so far, both trades and free-agent signings, have made the Jackets one of the big winners so far in the NHL off-season.
Howson has added free-agent scorer Kristian Huselius to give the team another gun to go with Rick Nash. The team's tattered blueline had been bolstered by the addition of free-agent Mike Commodore and ex-Rangers Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman. Howson has also added through trade size on the wings in R.J. Umberger and Raffi Torres. Finally, the Jackets drafted the player thought by many to be the most talented forward last month in Ottawa in the form of Russian Nikita Filatov, who might even be able to crack the Columbus lineup next fall.
Not bad. To make those additions, the Jackets have surrendered young forwards Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche and Gilbert Brule, and lost free-agent rearguard Ron Hainsey to Atlanta. But with attendance waning, Nash a free agent after two more seasons and life tough in the improving Central Division, Howson had to make bold moves.
Interestingly, the Jackets are still $20 million below the league's salary cap, which means they've got to at least spend another $4 million to get to the minimum.
Bryan McCabe? Pavel Kubina?
The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, have lost four of their top 12 forwards and two of their top six so far, with Marian Hossa signing in Detroit, Ryan Malone and Adam Hall signing in Tampa Bay and Jarkko Ruutu doing a deal with Ottawa. Backup goalie Ty Conklin also signed with the Wings.
The Pens did re-sign defenceman Brooks Orpik and inked Evgeni Malkin to a new deal. Speculation has them chasing Vancouver winger Markus Naslund and maybe even Jaromir Jagr of the Rangers.
The Canucks, despite bold promises from new GM Mike Gillis that he would do what ex-GM Dave Nonis could not, have added only goalie Curtis Sanford and forwards Darcy Hordichuk, Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Johnson. Nonis was criticized for not adding big name forwards, and although Gillis has thrown a $20 million offer at Mats Sundin, he hasn't come up with the goods yet.
In New York, Zherdev and Fritsche came over from the Jackets, and Wade Redden was signed to a big deal. But Jagr's future is uncertain, Sean Avery is history and Sundin is only a possibility.
Still, there's more moves to come. So losers could yet become winners.