There are a few common threads hanging around this free agent summer. It’s been a bad July for goalies, at least the big-ticket guys, as players such as Dan Ellis and Chris Mason provided cheap alternatives for teams who balked at the asking price of Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov. From my viewpoint, it’s been a fairly lucrative month for solid-but-unspectacular defensemen as Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis received healthy paydays.
It also seems like this might be The Summer of Dynamic-Yet-Flawed Russians. Obviously, we’ve covered Ilya Kovalchuk to the point of exhaustion (and will continue to do so) since last Thursday. It doesn’t stop there, though, as Nikolai Zherdev makes headlines while people also wonder what exactly is going on with another flighty rightie, Alex Frolov.
One other wayward young Russian is Nikita Filatov. Like Zherdev, the right-handed winger boasts bushels of offensive talent but bristled under the stern eye of former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock. He managed two goals and 0 assists* in 13 troubling games before the team allowed him to flee to CSKA Moscow in the KHL for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. (Filatov had a solid end there, scoring nine goals, 13 assists for 22 points in 26 games in the KHL.)
* I find it a bit odd that Filatov has six goals and zero assists in his NHL career. Expect that to be fodder for people who love obscure statistics.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Blue Jackets sent their development coach Tyler Wright to Moscow so he could work with the promising but sensitive forward. GM Scott Howson says that they expect to have Filatov in training camp while new coach Scott Arniel will allow the 20-year-old to have a “clean slate.”
“From everything we know,” Howson said, “he’s excited about coming.”
Coach Scott Arniel has promised a clean slate with Filatov, but it remains to be seen where he might fit in the lineup.
The top six – centers Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard, and wingers Rick Nash, Jake Voracek, Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger – would appear fairly settled two months away from camp, although Umberger opened on the third line last season to fit Filatov on the No.2 line.
Filatov has told the Blue Jackets that he has bulked up to 185 pounds, with the hope of being close to 190 when camp breaks.
“Nikita has the skill and the ability to play in a top-six role,” Howson said. “It’s going to be up to him to show it. NHL teams always make room for top-six players.”
Something tells me that the talent-poor Blue Jackets will do everything in their power to make things work with Filatov next season … but the young forward should try to meet them half-way.