The build up is rarely worth the wait. Every June I get ready for free agency, with dozens of players on my ‘want’ list, and probably just as many on my ‘stay away’ list. The options are endless and I would be foolish to suggest that I am on target with too many of my suggestions, but it’s in my nature to constantly consider the possibilities.
The biggest fear I had was the level of success on acquiring players. I still have plenty of confidence in Scott Howson, but I question the players looking at Columbus as a quality place for playing hockey. They are in the early stages of a rebuild that includes a new identity, and many guys seem to be focused on finding a competitive team, along with their payday.
The clock strikes noon, and all is quiet. With heads turned towards Parise and Suter, I sat patiently on the patio refreshing my phone, hoping for something. It took a couple of hours, but finally, after months of preparation, the first chip fell;
Marc Methot traded to the Ottawa Senators for winger Nick Foligno. It was no real secret that Columbus had the flexibility to move a defender. With realistically eight players who could play an NHL role, and Methot making slightly above what you’d like to see a third pairing defenseman take home, the move made sense. It also brought in a 47 point scorer (15 goals and 32 assists) in Foligno, who is not afraid to get physical (132 penalty minutes). The Buffalo native is a pending RFA and it has been noted that contract talks will begin shortly with the Blue Jackets.
Shortly after, the Blue Jackets announced the signing of Adrian Aucoin to a one year, two million dollar contract. Aucoin is the epitome of a veteran defenseman, and has been known to help the development of young defenseman on a number of teams. This could mean great things for Ryan Murray, John Moore, and David Savard, who will look to Aucoin for leadership and knowledge about the NHL game.
In addition to his presence on the blueline, Aucoin could also replicate what Vinny Prospal has done since coming to the team. His long career in the National Hockey League and leadership presence could prove extremely beneficial as the Jackets look forward into a new era of Columbus hockey. Reports from Aaron Portzline suggest that Aucoin reached out to former players who raved about the City and the fans. To have that kind of positive exposure to a team struggling the way Columbus has recently is tremendous.
To better a strong day for the team, Columbus then signed Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to a three year entry level deal. Nearly a point per game player in the QJMHL, “JAM” had a very strong first season in the AHL with the Connecticut Whale last year, amassing 24 goals and 40 assists for 64 points in 76 games. I can see the limited interest on his profile, standing at 5’9 175, but the scoring statistics are hard to ignore. Could Scott Howson have just found another short, NHL destined forward? It certainly did not cost them much to find out.
Finally, on a less anticipated note, the Jackets re-signed goaltender Curtis McElhinney to a one year, two way deal. This depth move could be a very good one, with McElhinney having plenty to prove, and lots of motivation to play himself into a quality role in the organization. McElhinney was acquired in the Vermette trade last season, but was not able to play due to injury.
With these moves, I would argue General Manager Scott Howson had a very positive start to free agency. While the Nash trade talk raged on, he was able to bring in a top six forward with plenty of upside, a veteran defenseman, and a couple of players who could potentially help this team down the road.
Join us on the Union Blue forums to discuss who you’d like to see added to the Columbus roster before the start of the season!
Carry the Flag!