Columbus Blue Jackets' New Free Agents Provide a Stable Foundation
After day one of free agency, my previous predictions of signing a decent back-up goaltender and a checking line center were correct. The names are just a little different.
On the first day of free agency, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed goaltender Mathieu Garon to a two-year, $2.4 million contract, as well as Samuel Pahlsson to a three-year, $7.95 million contract.
As you can see above, Garon just won a Stanley Cup. This will bode well for the Blue Jackets, as they begin adding playoff and Stanley Cup experience to their roster for the 2009-10 season.
The most important asset that Garon brings to the Jackets is a veteran leadership in net, which has been the toughest thing for them to find in the past few years. The Jackets have been paralyzed by the lack of an efficient back-up since the inception of the team, and the Garon signing just might signal an end of that era.
Steve Mason is the clear-cut No. 1, but with Garon solidly in place at No. 2, Ken Hitchcock can relieve some of the load that Mason had to carry last season.
Not to mention, Garon was the top shootout goalie in the league in 2007-08, tallying a 10-0 record, stopping 30 of 32 attempts.
The biggest fear for Jackets fans is that either Mason or Garon will fall to injury for a significant amount of time during the season, causing instability in net during one of the most important season in franchise history.
Pahlsson is considered to be one of the premier-checking line centers in the league, and helped lead the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006-07.
Pahlsson carries a thick 6'0", 210-pound frame, which allows him to become highly physical on the ice, especially on the fore-check, which is such a vital part of the Jackets game-plan. Pahlsson should fit in well alongside Jakub Voracek and Raffi Torres on the third line, who also are not afraid to hit a moving body in front of them.
The only possible downside that some detractors may point out is his decreasing point production the last few years, compounded with his growing age. But what they fail to realize is the intangibles that he brings to the system that the Jackets have succeeded in creating. He will play defense, and he will check.
Mark my words, these two signings, while not as high of caliber as a Marian Hossa, or Jay Bouwmeester, will still have the same impact for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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