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The UFA Acquisitions: A closer look

As many of you know, the CBJ made a splash into the Unrestricted Free Agency (UFA) pool. Personally, that they participated on the very first day surprised me somewhat, particularly after I’d been hearing that Scott Howson was going to wait to see what went down with the initial signings, and the terms and dollars that went with it.

Well…surprise, surprise, surprise…just when Howson, I, and many other observers thought teams would take a more conservative stance on ridiculous contracts and trades, enter the likes of the drunken sailors – the Broadway Blueshirts, who never met a cap they couldn’t obliterate; the Habs – is Bob Gainey trying to save his job or lose it before the puck drops?; the Flyers, after the Kris Pronger trade – and Paul Holmgren is still employed?; Even the ‘Hawks – one team who I really felt had been brilliant in their incremental building of this once proud O-6 organization, feel prey to the frenzy, and signed ‘Maid’ Marian Hossa, Hockey’s new “Mr. October” – not good, given it’s the NHL – for 12 years and $62 million.

In the case of Scott Howson, I merely believe it was a case of him not wanting to lose out on players he specifically targeted for the CBJ’s specific off-season needs.

Let me provide the particulars, first, from a scouting standpoint, for the 2 players acquired via UFA:

Sammy Pahlsson: 3 Years, $7.95 million.

ASSETS: Has good instincts and defensive prowess. Is strong on his skates and works hard. Excels in defensive situations.

FLAWS: Needs to produce more points at the NHL level. Doesn’t shoot enough when in good scoring position.

CAREER POTENTIAL: Checking line center.

Matieu Garon: 2 Years, 2.4 million.

ASSETS: Has tremendous poise. Shows an excellent glove hand. Is a hard worker and displays the ability to bounce back from adversity.

FLAWS: Must prove capable of handling the pressure of playing major minutes. Does he have the demeanor of an above-average NHL starting netminder?

CAREER POTENTIAL: No. 1A goalie.

Now, my comments:

First, Pahlsson – Is this a match made in heaven, for Hitch, or what? This guy is the ultimate shut-down center, has SC Cup Championship experience and really steps up at the needed time – see RJ Umberger and Derek Dorsett – please don’t see…ah, the list, for the 1st round of SC Playoffs, for the CBJ, is too long.

Here’s what I really think about this signing: This was a message sent to Manny Malhotra, flat out. While it’s family hour and I’ll make the comments PG in nature, let’s just say the message are the initials for Franklin University, and leave it, at that. This is the organization’s way of saying, hey, your numbers, last year, should have had an asterisk by them, as you were on the no. 1 line, and only by injuries and organization dearth (at the position), and you are not nearly worth as much as you think you’re worth. So, MM, here’s what we’re willing to pay for someone who we believe is worth the money you’re asking for.

As for those who believe we may have overpaid for Pahlsson, while I believe that’s true, to an extent, I also believe that, sorry CBJ-nation, we’re not a destination, just yet, so, until we are, we may have to overpay, until we even believe we’re “hometown discount” worthy.

But, overall, totally geeked up over this acquisition.

Second, Garon – perfect! He’s a proven goalie – see the Oil’s post-season run, 2 seasons ago. He’s got good size – 6’2″, 210 lbs. – and, he’s a Right-Handed catching goalie – ask most NHL shooters how much that (very few of them, one of which is Steve Mason) throws them off. And, there’s his record in shootouts – almost perfect. Garon also was a capable fill-in when Dwayne Roloson was injured, 2 seasons ago.

Per my conversation with Asst GM Chris MacFarland, what they were looking for, above all, was a proven NHL goalie who could not only spell Mason – see last season’s ridiculous workload – but could also spell Mason – hockey’s version of a (term commonly used in baseball) stopper. And, God forbid, should Mason get an injury, someone who can step in a carry the load, during that period. You tell me – on those instances when Mase went down during a game, how many of you held your breath until you knew he was alright? I thought so…

And, for those who forgot, there is the connection to the Oil (Edmonton Oilers – using a bit of Alberta local jargon, there) by Scott Howson – my guess is he’s seen him a few times, and knows exactly what he’s getting from him.

Overpaid for him? Again, maybe – but, we now have that need met by someone who is content with his 1A role. Consider this need also met.

While there are needs to still be met – a puck-moving D-Man, or two, and a possible additional center – personally, I would tend to obtain a center who can serve as a hedge, given Derrick Brassard’s injury history – both shoulders, jaw, at the Junior, AHL and NHL level – I believe this is a great start towards filling the wish list needs.

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