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Blue Jackets - Summer Update Written by habsfan93 - August 18th, 2009

Still basking in their glory after winning the Season 5 Stanley Cup, the Columbus Blue Jackets started looking ahead to next season - and they like what they see.

Whenever you have a winning team, its important to try and keep the core of the team together. That's how dynasties are built. GM habsfan93 took a look at the roster and saw something that had him considerably worried. Almost the entire team has a contract that expires this summer or next. And with the consistent success that players on this team have, it is not going to be easy to keep all them when all of their contracts expire at once.

So a game plan was drawn, and then, like he always does, GM habsfan93 started to execute. A number of things were identified. First, Milan Hejduk, Brendan Shanahan and Stephane Yelle were all set to become free agents this summer. Knowing that only a max of two could be kept, a decision had to be made. One quick look at the team depth chart made that decision easy - don't keep any of them.

All three were told in their exit interviews that they would not be retained for Season 6, and that the team was currently shopping their rights through a sign-and-trade deal. After talking to some other GM's, it became quickly apparent that Shanahan and Yelle were not going to attract any attention, but the player who did is Milan Hejduk. Hejduk was extremely dissapointed when told by GM habsfan93 that he would not be getting a contract offer. After 3 years in Columbus, Milan had finally seen the team through to the Cup. But a heavy contract and a pile of youth waiting to replace him means his number was up, and he understood that plainly.

And a deal was struck to send Milan Hejduk to the Eastern Conference and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Using the Blue Jackets as a proxy, Milan came to a deal with the Leafs very quickly and is excited about the opportunity to play with Pavol Demitra next season.

On the Jackets side, the prospect pool gets another boost, as the team acquires four young players who all look very good. Cody Goloubef turned heads at the World Juniors this past winter, and could be in a Jackets uniform within 2-3 years. Trevor Lewis has had a rough road after being made a top 10 draft pick, but he's got lightning speed and could develop into a 2nd or 3rd liner with some good coaching. Jonas Ahnelov is the closest to the show of the group, and the Jackets are hoping he can suit up for the team in Season 7. Finally, the Jackets pick up Tim Erixon who was chosen by the Leafs in the second half of the first round of this summer's draft.

With Hejduk out the door, a large gap was left at RW, and a look at the depth chart saw the Jackets one weakness get exploited - a lack of top talent at RW. So habsfan93 looked at his options, saw the backlog at center and decided to see if he could ply one of his youngsters for a top young RW. And although he was very, very close to a deal to move Brassard to a Pacific Division team for just that kind of player, things fell through at the last minute.

Left with no other serious takers for Brassard, and desperately wanting to hang on to David Krejci, the Jackets turned to something they had not intended to do. Eric Staal has been a mainstay on the Jackets 2nd line for the last two years, and figured to be a major part of the Jackets long term plans. But with a contract expiring next summer, and a large raise in waiting, it made sense to deal him to Philadelphia for winger Pavel Datsyuk who currently has a 2-year deal that will allow the Jackets some more flexibility next summer. Datsyuk will line up on the 2nd line at LW with Brassard and Gionta.

Looking at the entry draft, the Jackets held the 30th pick of the draft, as well as a dearth of later picks, and the Leafs pick at #23 (Erixon). But not liking the prospect pool too much at the end of the first round, the Jackets made their first of several draft day deals, taking up the opportunity to move down. At the end of the day, the Jackets drafted 15 players (including Erixon), and look forward to watching all these young guys progress. Highlights include Finnish forward Joonas Nattinen, defenceman Mac Bennett, and goalie Jaroslav Janus, who was spectacular for Slovakia at the World Juniors.

Unrestricted free agency is expected to come and go for the Jackets. GM habsfan93 was quoted as saying "We won't be making any bids for UFA's this summer. Our roster is complete. Yes its a risk to replace almost half of our forward core with rookies, but we feel all these guys have paid their dues and are absolutely ready for the pros. To keep them out of the lineup any longer would be an injustice."

A number of youngsters will be playing their first seasons in Columbus this year to replace the departed Hejduk, Shanahan, Yelle, the retired David Vyborny. Tomas Fleischmann, Chris Stewart, Dave Bolland, Derick Brassard, and David Krejci all will be making their rookie debuts this year.

And finally, just when he thought his roster was set, GM habsfan93 received an offer from the Montreal Canadiens that he simply could not refuse. The club dealt Alex Frolov (who was slated to take over Hedjuk's role on the 1st line) to the Canadiens for RW Marian Gaborik, a 1st and a 2nd round pick. Gaborik will now step in on the first line with Zetterberg and Lecavalier. GM habsfan93 was asked about the deal and he said "We think this is a good move for the future of the club. Gaborik had a rough year last year, and we think that he can have a major rebound year on our club, just as good as Frolov would have had. Additionally, we have always built this team through the draft and 2 more high picks are an exceptional return for the risk of taking a less sure thing in Gaborik."

Here's a look at the project Season 6 lineup (new players in bold):

Henrik Zetterberg - Vincent Lecavalier - Marian Gaborik
Pavel Datsyuk - Derick Brassard - Brian Gionta
Tomas Fleischmann - David Krejci - Dave Bolland
Chris Stewart - Mike Sillinger - Rostislav Olesz

Nicklas Lidstrom - Francois Beauchemin
Christian Ehrhoff - J-M Liles
Kim Johnsson - Francis Bouillon

Henrik Lundqvist
Dwayne Roloson

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