Every now and then, an NHL team loses a player for a long period of time when he isn’t even playing hockey. It happened when Sami Salo suffered a freak injury during a game of floor hockey in 2010 and Kristian Huselius seems like the 2011 example after he tore his pectoral muscle while lifting weights.
The injury (and resulting surgery) is expected to keep Huselius out of action for 4-6 months, meaning he probably won’t be ready for NHL action until November (at the earliest) or January (if he falls in the later end of the scale). That’s a tough blow for Huselius and the Blue Jackets, but perhaps they should have seen his injury woes coming; he only played in 39 games during the 2010-11 season.
Either way, the Blue Jackets are without a top six forward. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline lays out their options, which seemingly boil down to signing a free agent or finding a team willing to make a deal that won’t cost them a top prospect such as Ryan Johansen.
Free agency is a well-picked carcass at this point, but there are a few intriguing players still available.
Cory Stillman, Vaclav Prospal, Brendan Morrison, Steve Bernier, Sergei Samsonov, J.P. Dumont, Marek Svatos, and former Blue Jacket Jason Williams are all unrestricted free agents.
The Blue Jackets already leaning toward a franchise-record $58 million payroll are likely to seek a one-year contract worth no more than $2 million.
If the free agency market doesn’t bear fruit, a long wait could ensue.
The Blue Jackets would be forced to pursue three possible scenarios to find their guy: seek a trade, sign a player who becomes a free agent following the August “buy out” window, or sign a player who becomes a free agent when his club declines to accept a ruling handed down in arbitration.
Portzline reports that Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson isn’t looking for a “direct replacement” for Huselius. Instead, he simply wants someone who can “sustain” them while he heals up. (Too bad Howson couldn’t go in the $3 million price range, because I’m sure the Flames would allow him to take struggling winger Niklas Hagman off their hands for a limited price.)
If I were Howson, I’d take a long look at Dumont or Samsonov. Those are two players who can create offense and might be surprisingly effective in last chance (or close to last chance?) contract years. Stillman might not be a bad option, either, although Dumont and Samsonov provide younger options.
The Flames and Blue Jackets are just two of the NHL teams who might be looking to make a deal sometime this summer, so we could have some interesting deals to discuss in these hockey-free months.