No Kaberle? No problem.
The Tomas Kaberle saga appears to have come to an end with the kick-in of a non-movement clause in his contract. How interested the Blue Jackets brass was in Kaberle, will likely never be known. Some reports linked right winger Jake Voracek to a potential deal, but trading away young talent isn’t exactly Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson’s M.O. While Kaberle coming to Columbus seemed like a perfect fit, Toronto GM Brian Burke came out over the weekend to announce that the team will not move the Czech defender.
So, where do the Jackets go now? Logic suggests that the Jackets won’t stand pat and training camp might be the right time to add a new stick (preferably right-handed) to the defense. Teams such as San Jose and Chicago will need to get under the cap for the season, and players will be traded. The Blue Jackets are in an ideal position to take advantage of other teams’ misfortune with a glut of expendable wingers and plenty of room under the cap. San Jose defenders Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are two potential targets; one will be moved.
Another intriguing option could be disgruntled Carolina defenseman Anton Babchuk. The talented Russian netted 16 goals last season, nine of which were scored on the power play. Nine power play goals, that’s two more than the entire Jackets defense managed. However, Babchuk was benched for portions of Carolina’s spring playoff run because of uninspired play in the defensive end. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford announced that the restricted free agent will not be a ‘Cane in ‘09-’10 after rejecting a one-year, $1million dollar extension. The former first-rounder comes with some baggage, and Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t put up with players who have effort issues (see Babchuk’s compatriot Nik Zherdev).
Even without any personnel changes, the Jackets defense should improve as will the power play. Then again, with the 30th ranked power play in the league last season, regression is not exactly an option. A healthy Derek Brassard should do wonders for the squad. He’s a legitimate playmaker, something the Blue Jackets have lacked at the center position. He also has experience playing the point on the power play so he may just be the quarterback this organization covets so. Some impressive play from Brassard, along with the continued progression of Fedor Tyutin and Kris Russell, should help give the power play a boost. Then there’s Rostislav Klesla. It’s a contract season for the organization’s first ever pick. Rusty hasn’t lived up to the high expectations, but at 27 he is only now entering his prime. Blue Jackets brass has high hopes that Klesla can build on an exceptional playoff performance. A healthy Rusty for the entire season could be a great improvement for both of the special teams units.
The power play certainly can’t do any worse.
Tune in Wednesday evening for the Fire the Cannon Podcast. The Central Division Preview continues with a break down of the St. Louis Blues. Join the discussion live starting at 7 PM. Previous episodes are available on iTunes and talkshoe.com.