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Offseason Decisions – Free agents

Not only will crucial decision have to be made this year at the draft table but the Blue Jackets find themselves with 10 free agents (6 unrestricted, 4 restricted). If your General Manager Scott Howson what do you do? Your team has finally made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. You may be hesitant to make drastic changes, but you have to expect that there will be some overhaul on your roster. So which free agents stay and which should be shown the door?

Jason Williams (UFA):  The Jackets acquired him before the deadline this year from the Thrashers for Clay Wilson and a 6th round draft pick. He will be 29 when next season begins and will be able to contribute at a high level for years to come. He will be looked upon as a leader in the dressing room and can play in the top six. He chipped in with 12 goals and 17 assists in 39 games for the Jackets down the stretch and was solid on the point for the power play. I believe Howson will do all he can to resign sign him. I would expect to see Williams sign between 2.4 to 3.0 million for 3 years. 

Michael Peca (UFA): Michael now finds himself in the twilight of his career and will most likely not find himself in a Blue Jackets uniform next year. He earned 1.3 million last year and did not have a major impact, long gone are the days when Peca was a force with Sabres and the Isles. He has 4 goals and 18 assists in 71 games and killed the odd penalty. I expect his roster spot will be given to a young player next year and Peca will be sent on his way. Classy player through and through and his leadership will be missed

Manny Malhotra(UFA):  Manny has been apart of this team since 2003 and has been a solid leader. Just like Williams, Manny will be 29 going into next season and still has a lot of life left in his legs. He can fill in when needed in the top six but Manny is more of a third line center. After making 1.2 mill last season, I expect Howson will sign him for somewhere between 2.0 to 2.5 million. 

Jiri Novotny(RFA): Jiri is just 25 years of age and has never really panned out as expected, he is a former 1st round pick (22nd overall, 2001) and he has 16 NHL career goals in 147 games.  He earned 750k last year, I would offer him 800k just to add to the teams organizations depth. If not let him walk and look to free agency to add to our depth chart.

Chris Gratton(UFA): Chris was claimed off waivers in February from Tampa and only got into 6 games. Now 33, probability won’t be back. Just into town long enough for a cup of coffee.

Christian Backman(UFA): Fell out of the top six D down the stretch and found himself on the bench during the playoffs.  Rumors have him signing over in Sweden for next season. No loss with the emergence of Marc Methot and Kris Russell. Plus Cody Goloubef is being groomed in the minors.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen(RFA): Ole-Kristian is one of 5 Norwegians to play in the NHL, 2 in Columbus with Espen Knutsen being the other. Ole is a hard nose player and does not shy away from contact. He got better as the season went on and should be tendered a contact in the 700 to 850k range.

Aaron Rome(RFA): Aaron will probablity be the teams 7th defensemen and will most likely be tendered a contract. He will probability split time between the NHL and the minors.

Marc Methot(RFA): Methot is only 23 and bring good size to the blueline. He stands at about 6-3 224lbs and was paired up with big Mike Commodore to give Hitchcook a solid shutdown pair. He got better as the season progressed and proved he play in the NHL. He made 552k last season and will probablity find his self at around 600 to 800k.

Wade Dubielewicz(UFA): Wade was picked up on waivers and played only 3 games due to injury. I see no point in bringing Dubbie back as he will want to return to Long Island.  Just like Gratton, here for a cup of coffee.

Everyone check back tomorrow as we will go through the Jackets roster to see who is likely to find themselves as trade candidates. Also we will take a look at other team’s free agents and who we think the Blue Jackets should go after.  And hey whatever happened to David Vyborny?


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