If the Columbus Blue Jackets enter the 2015-16 campaign with largely the same defense as last season, it won’t be because they didn’t try to make a big change.
Per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:
The Blue Jackets were in on trade talks concerning Dougie Hamilton before Boston sent him to Calgary, and they’ve contacted the St. Louis Blues about Kevin Shattenkirk. The Jackets also made a contract offer to free agent Paul Martin before he signed with San Jose.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen plans to keep looking, but it’s worth noting that Columbus is only about $4 million below the ceiling after signing Brandon Saad and Matt Calvert, per General Fanager. That’s not to say that Columbus can’t still acquire a top defenseman, but it’s more likely that it would have to involve the other team either retaining salary or taking a contract in order to make things work.
As things stand, the Blue Jackets have one of the cheapest defenses in the league as their money has instead flowed to their forwards and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s thanks in part to the fact that blueliners David Savard, Dalton Prout, Ryan Murray, and Kevin Connauton each come with a cap hit of $1.3 million or less, but all of them will be restricted free agents next summer and the raises they might demand has to also be a consideration.
So ultimately Columbus might stick with what it has and hope Murray can stay healthy as the 2012 second overall pick has run into serious injury problems early in his career.
“To me, getting him healthy would be the best addition any team has made this summer,” Kekalainen said. “It would make a huge difference for us.”
Just one day after re-upping with one of their young defensemen, the Blue Jackets have retained another.
Justin Falk, acquired at the deadline in exchange for Jordan Leopold, has been signed to a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.
“Justin is a good, young defenseman who was a solid addition to our hockey club late last season,” Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “We are pleased that he will continue to be a part of our group on the blue line next season.”
Falk, 26, scored two points in 18 games last year while averaging 15:13 TOI per night. News of his signing comes just one day after Columbus also re-upped with another d-man — 25-year-old Cody Goloubef — on a two-year, $1.5 million extension.
The Falk deal pretty much locks in the Blue Jackets’ defense for next year, barring a trade of some sort. The club now has eight NHL defensemen under contract: Falk, Goloubef, Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray, Fedor Tyutin, David Savard, Dalton Prout and Kevin Connauton.
Columbus has re-upped with one of its young defensemen.
Cody Goloubef, the 37th overall pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, has agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him with the Blue Jackets through 2017, GM Jarmo Kekalainen announced on Thursday.
“Cody is a mobile, puck moving defenseman who makes good decisions on the ice and we’re excited about his future as a Blue Jacket,” said Kekalainen. “He has shown steady improvement in his game and we believe there is more room for growth in the coming years.”
Goloubef, 25, had nine points in 36 games last year while averaging 15:33 TOI per night. After spending most of the last four years shuttling between Columbus and AHL Springfield, Goloubef was set to become a UFA on July 1 after making $625,000 annually on his last deal; per the club, financial details of this new contract were not disclosed (the Dispatch reports it’s a one-way deal worth $1.5 million, a $750K annual cap hit.)
The signing gives Columbus seven defensemen under contract for next year: Goloubef, Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray, Fedor Tyutin, David Savard, Dalton Prout and Kevin Connauton. Dillon Heatherington, the club’s second-round pick (50th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, could challenge for a spot in Columbus, but seems more likely destined for Lake Erie, the club’s new AHL affiliate.