Jackets Rumor Mill

By Aaron Vickers

Jackets Rumor Mill
Who’s In And Who’s Out?

There’s a lot of speculation going around the National Hockey League. As always, many try to pre-determine trade deadline activity. This year, there’s a lot of speculation over a couple of Blue Jackets. While I can see a number of players switching uniforms, I think that it will most likely be a strong possibility for Lyle Odelein and Ron Tugnutt.

Let’s start with Odelein, the senior of the Blue Jackets Blueline. It’s not impossible to concieve a number of places where Lyle could be dealt. Odelein is making $2.4 Million, which is payroll that GM Doug MacLean may want to clear out for offseason acquisitions. Odelein, the captain in Columbus, would immediately bring leadership into any dressing room, and a solid presence in his own end. His offensive numbers this season have been up slightly, registering 14 points(2-12-14) in 53 games this season, as compared to 17 points in 81 games in 2000-2001. However, Odelein is -20 thus far this season, the worst Odelein has been in his career. I do not think teams will be overly discouraged by this, though, considering the team which surrounds him.

Where are some possible locations that Odelein could be shipped? Pretty much any organization who wants to take over his salary, is a decent contender, and wouldn’t mind adding a rough and tumble blueliner for the stretch drive. Detroit seems like the most obvious fit, and I’m sure the Wings would give up a player like Maxim Kuznetsov to pick up Odelein. The Islanders are also in need of a couple defensemen, and if they do not fill that need in a trade with the Thrashers involving Rick Dipietro, they could come knocking. It may be a bit difficult to persuade the Isles into defenseman Dick Tarnstrom, but who’s to say that the Jackets want/need a defenseman in return with players like Cole Jarrett, Louis Mandeville, and Aaron Johnson coming up through the CHL ranks next season. Any contender is a suspect for Lyle Odelein.

Goaltender Ron Tugnutt has also been rumored to be on the move, and with the play of Marc Denis, I can understand it. The development and play of Denis has made Tugnutt expendable, and there is a few teams that could use him. Tugnutt, with a 7-20-3 record this season including a 2.75GAA and .903SV%, this season, has set numerous NHL records in regards to expansion franchises. Also, in his last stint in the postseason with Pittsburgh, he posted a 6-5 record, with an amazing 1.77 GAA and astounding .940SV%. He has the experience needed to carry a team through the first round as a starter, or bring some leadership in a backup role.

One such team that could be interested in the services of Mr. Tugnutt is the Leafs. Its no secret that the Leafs need a better backup than Corey Schwab, and Tugnutt would immediately bring in credability from the bench, something that Schwab is unable to do. Another possibility in my mind would be St Louis. Although lately they have gotten some quality goaltending out of Brent Johnson, they have had an eternal search for a surefire #1 goalie, which Tugnutt could provide. The Jackets would most likely be looking at a pick/prospect/young forward in exchange for Tugnutt with Shane Bendera and Pascal Leclaire able to back-up Denis next season. Any one of these teams could easily rent out Tugnutt for the duration of his $2.4 Million contract.

This offseason should see a flurry of transactions, and it will not surprise anyone if the Jackets make some noise this year with the likes of Ron Tugnutt and Lyle Odelein available. Certainly it will be difficult losing two key character/role players from their lineup, but hockey today is a business, and with both Odelein and Tugnutt making $2.4 Million, it certainly wont be a surprise to see them relocated to a contender.