Today I’m going to try to keep a running update of incoming free agents to Columbus and interesting-to-me player moves elsewhere in the NHL. We’re going to call this a quasi-Live Blog (the first time I’ve attempted such nonsense) so this will probably crash and totally fall apart in the first hour. Exciting times!
Players Added By Columbus
Nathan Horton (7 years, $5.3MM per year) – Horton is an extremely effective possession player and has been since his days in Florida. His purely counting scoring numbers don’t necessarily pop off the page, but his scoring rates (this year in the top 30 in NHL goal scoring) are impressive. Concerns remain about impending shoulder surgery and a history of injuries in general (he averaged only 70/82 games for the past 7 full seasons), but Horton is an extremely valuable addition to the team and is coming off this half-season with a PDO of only 982 (reasonably low). Expect a high-level contributor to Blue Jacket success once he recovers from surgery, but keep playtime expectations realistic over the lengthy term if future injuries resurface. Also remember he’s 28 now, so the first few years of productivity on this contract are crucial.
Cody Bass, Ryan Craig, Jeremy Smith (all on two-way deals) – None of these moves do too much for the club; all three should read as depth moves for the AHL team in Springfield. Bass is 26 and similar to Jared Boll (a less-than-NHL player himself), Craig is 31 and figures to slot into a leadership role for the Falcons. Jeremy Smith, the goalie, is probably the most interesting of the three. He’s only 24 with a few impressive AHL seasons under his belt with Milwaukee (.921 and .922 SV% in 10-11, 11-12). He should figure into the Springfield crease this year.
Thomas Larkin (2 year entry level) – Larkin is a 6′ 5” Italian defenseman who played college at Colgate University. The height/reach thing likely makes him popular, but I personally enjoyed watching him play versus Clarkson in his first two years in the ECAC. He’s a bit unpolished, but he’s only 22 and competent enough to get AHL consideration (with an outside shot at the NHL in a few years).
Noteworthy Additional Moves
Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, traded for Silfverberg, Noesen, 1st Round Pick to Anaheim – And now at about 3:30 we get a big trade to add to the free agency madness. This is a surprising move that sees regular 30 goal scorer (and great possession player) Ryan move East and sends highly valued prospects to the Ducks. The sports headlines in Ottawa now shift away from the loss of Alfie and to this exciting move. But who’s the winner here? Short-term it’s easy to believe that Ottawa comes out ahead with an in-his-prime scorer (14th in goals since 08-09). Long-term? That’s harder to say. Both Silfverberg and Noesen (who has been lighting it up in the OHL) are very impressive young players that should be solid NHL contributors for years. Add in a (probably) late 1st rounder? Anaheim can’t be upset with their return, but they’ll need to find some short-term replacement for the power they lost with Ryan gone.
David Clarkson to Toronto (7 years, $5.25MM per year) / Tyler Bozak re-signs with Toronto (5 years, $4.2MM per year) – After throwing out Grabovski for nothing, Toronto GM Dave Nonis has decided to give a non-elite point producer (less than 0.60 pts/game for his entire career), a non-elite goal scorer even (has only hit 30 goals once in his career), at age 29 (on the wrong side of the age curve) a 7 year deal. Seven years of not-really-that-great, and also not-always-great-at-Corsi either. The cap hit isn’t quite as dire as some had predicted leading up to the start of free agency, so that much is positive for Toronto. However, that kind of term for someone with inconsistent possession ability and good-not-great scoring is the kind of bad deal that seems to surface at the trade deadline.
In addition, the ouster of actually-top-six-talent-center Grabovski has led the Leafs to re-sign their “first” line center Bozak. It’s not that he’s inherently awful, mind you. It’s merely that Bozak’s Corsi results are worse than Grabo’s, his scoring is less effective, and he’s doing all this non-elite-scoring while riding the coattails of actual top sniper Phil Kessel. The whole process of Nonis losing another center to keep Bozak at this term and contract size just doesn’t make any sense. Overall, not the most inspiring set of moves by Mr. Nonis. Check out more Leafs coverage from the good folks at Pension Plan Puppets.