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Numbers Game: Blue Jackets for Blueshirts

Scott Cullen
7/3/2008 4:36:46 PM
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The Rangers and Blue Jackets swapped defence for scoring. Numbers Game looks into the Blueshirts-Blue Jackets deal.

The Rangers Get: RW Nikolai Zherdev and RW Dan Fritsche.

Just 23 years-old, Nikolai Zherdev has star potential, but he's already established an up-and-down pattern to his career so consistency has been elusive in his formative years.

At the same time, Zherdev is coming off the best year of his career, to this point, scoring a career-high 61 points and posting a career-best plus-minus of minus-9.

Obviously, the defensive side of the game hasn't quite taken hold with Zherdev yet, but he started to make some progress in that regard last season so there is hope that he can at least be passable in that regard.

Nevertheless, the attraction to Zherdev is based on his ability to put the puck in the net and, with 76 goals in his first four seasons, he's shown the kind of potential that could lead to a 40-goal season in the future.

In New York, Zherdev might be best paired with setup man extraordinaire Scott Gomez, who will get Zherdev the puck in better scoring positions.  With the Rangers' current crop of forwards, Zherdev should be able to count on a lot of quality ice time, but it may be asking a lot for him to surpass last season's 61 points as Gomez and Jaromir Jagr were the only Rangers to surpass that total in 2007-2008.

Zherdev will earn $3.25-million next season and be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

Soon-to-be 23-year-old Dan Fritsche saw his production slip a little in 2007-2008, but he's still a solid young forward, capable of playing a third-line role while possessing enough offensive upside to perhaps work his way up to the second line at some point.

A restricted free agent, Fritsche earned $750,000 in 2007-2008 and shouldn't be in line for a huge raise after scoring 22 points in 69 games.

The Rangers sorely needed to add these two top-nine forwards because they are quite likely to see Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Sean Avery all leave town this summer and those goals need to be replaced.

Columbus needed to address the holes created by this deal and addressed the scoring issue by signing free agent winger Kristian Huselius.

The Blue Jackets Get: D Fedor Tyutin and D Christian Backman.

Quite clearly looking to give their defence corps a facelift, the Blue Jackets acquired a pair of blueliners from the Rangers and they will join free agent signing Mike Commodore as part of a bigger, stronger blueline.

Tyutin, who will soon be 25, is an aggressive hitter who uses his strong frame well.  He's not particularly adept with the puck, so the Blue Jackets may want to restrict him from that responsibility, but Tyutin can easily handle more than 20 minutes per game focusing on the defensive end.

One of the primary reasons for getting Tyutin is that he has a very reasonable four years and $11.375-million remaining on his contract.

Backman, 28, is a big guy who doesn't use his size well, but is able to handle the puck and that could make him a valued addition in Columbus, where the free agent departure of Ron Hainsey leaves them without a quarterback for the power play (Rostislav Klesla is the top returning power play scoring defenceman for the Jackets, with six points on the PP in 2007-2008).

Having not played more than 66 games in any of his four NHL seasons, Backman has also turned in 18 points in each of those four seasons.  The smart money might be to expect another 18 points out of him next season, but he'll likely have more power play chances in Columbus, so it's fair to expect better offensive output.  His defensive play has run hit-and-miss at times, but he can provide value in the right role.

Backman has one year, at $3.4-million, left on his contract.  While the cash outlay is substantial for what he's provided to this point in his career, the cap hit will only be $2.3-million, which is easier to digest.

Columbus' defence corps is going to be better off with these additions, but this trade was made more necessary when it was apparent that Ron Hainsey would leave via free agency.  An improved group on defence certainly won't hurt the value of goaltender Pascal Leclaire.

In the final analysis, the Rangers get the better value out of the deal, because of Zherdev's upside, but that's not to criticize what the Blue Jackets got in return.  If they can address their scoring issues through free agency, taking this opportunity to really shore up the defence should go a long way towards making the Blue Jackets more competitive in 2008-2009.

Scott Cullen can be reached at scullen@tsn.ca




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