Skoula in camp on a invite
The Blue Jackets have invited former Minnesota Wild defenseman Martin Skoula to take part in a preseason tryout. The 6’3”, 225-pound Czech defender has not been able to find a home this off-season after spending the better part of four seasons in St. Paul.
Skoula, who will turn 30 in October, had previously signed a tryout agreement with the Florida Panthers this summer, but after the Panthers signing of Dennis Seidenburg, he was released. The Blue Jackets will evaluate Skoula for the remainder of training camp and hope to have him play in the two remaining preseason exhibition games.
It was reported earlier this off-season that Skoula had declined an invitation to the Blue Jackets training camp on the grounds that he did not feel there would not be room for him on the roster. His invitation may be a signal that the Jackets brass may not be comfortable with the current candidates to fill the seventh defenseman role
Skoula, a former 1st round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, is a solid skater with good size, but hasn’t blossomed offensively as scouts projected. He put up 4g-12a-16pts in all 82 games for Minnesota last season. His career high of 31 points came back in 2001-2002. Former Wild Coach Jacques Lemaire has spoken highly of Skoula to Jacket Coach Ken Hitchcock.
Skoula would be a dependable 7th defenseman for the Blue Jackets, especially with the flu and other nagging injuries that have hampered the defensive corps. during training camp. He brings a wealth of experience, including a Stanley Cup with the Aves in 2000-2001. He also spent the past four seasons under Lemaire playing in a comparable defensive system to Hitch’s. If he would be willing to sign for something near the league minimum, he could be a solid pickup.
Although the John Moore has had an excellent preseason and has looked like the best defenseman in camp, he will almost certainly be heading to Kitchner to mature physically and play big minutes. This club has rushed young defensive talent in the past and Scott Howson does not want to continue that trend with the ‘09 1st round pick.
As of now Grant Clitsome appears to be the front-runner for the 7th spot. In five preseason games Clitsome is 1-1-2 with a -2 rating. The other remaining candidates include Nick Holden, David Liffton, Doug Lynch, Mathieu Roy and Jonathan Sigalet. Roy, with 30 games under his belt, is the only candidate with significant NHL experience.