Question from @CPFro3: When we can expect serious talks to happen with Ryan Johansen? Seems it’s in a feeling-out state currently.
That’s probably fair to say, and really, both sides can take some time with this because Johansen is a restricted free agent – which is to say the Blue Jackets hold the hammer with respect to other teams. There will be negotiations, and as we saw last year with Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract talks, there are ebbs and flows throughout the process but both parties reached a sensible conclusion with a new two-year deal. On the surface, the Johansen situation is much like Bobrovsky's from a year ago; both are young players who, until their contract years, hadn’t really established themselves in the NHL. Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy in 2012-13 in what would be considered a breakout year, and this year, Johansen scored 35 goals (regular season and playoffs) and was a star offensively for Columbus. Johansen will become a restricted free agent on July 1, and the Blue Jackets would prefer to have him signed before then, so I’d expect the “serious talks” to take place and intensify in the days leading up to the first of the month.
Question from @weanus22: When does the schedule come out?
Long story short: it’s usually released in mid-July...*but* Sportsnet hockey insider John Shannon said earlier this week that the NHL is expected to release the 2014-15 schedule before the end of June. It’s a pretty involved process and most teams have “ideal dates” plotted out years in advance, so when it comes time to submit a list of preferred home dates to the NHL each year, they’ve got an idea of what they want the schedule to look like. Not every team has all of its schedule wishes granted, mind you, but the league takes all requests into consideration. For example: if one team requests to open at home and on a Saturday, which teams (if any) have schedule requests that align with the other team’s request? And around and around the process goes for months…but it’s reaching an end point if it hasn’t already.
Question from @iamTwigggy: You can only sign one free agent. Who and why?
Ok, that’s an easy answer…but I assume you mean “unrestricted free agent,” so I’ll play along.
I’ll make this easier on myself because it’s my mailbag and I can do what I want, so let’s pretend that the salary cap and financials don’t factor into my decision. I’m picking one of this year’s UFAs who I’d most like to sign, and my answer is Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche.
First, I think Stastny would be a terrific fit behind Johansen as the No. 2 center and his offensive game is on the rebound after a solid regular season and great playoff run in 2013-14. Stastny put up 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) in 71 regular season games and 10 points in seven playoff games. He can shoot the puck, pass the puck, and at 28 years old, is in the prime of his career. He probably isn’t a No. 1 center (possession numbers and face-off percentage weren’t great this past season) but he would slot nicely behind Johansen as a secondary offensive weapon for the Blue Jackets, one that would make them a better team for the next few years and possibly beyond.
Question from @incrediblegulk: Who wears the ‘C’ next season?
(takes deep breath)
I think someone will wear the captain’s ‘C’ this season, I really do. I have no idea who that person will be, but I think we’re getting closer to that day than we are further away. The Blue Jackets’ playoff run showed us a lot about certain players and their ability to lead in tough situations, and there are few situations in hockey more mentally and physically exhausting than a playoff series.
I’ve been asked a few times if I think the Blue Jackets will go external and sign/trade for a player with significant leadership experience to be the captain, and while it’s certainly possible, I don’t see it. I think there are players on the current roster who are capable of being the captain and should be considered strong candidates, and those players have earned the respect of their teammates.
Stay tuned, because this question isn’t going anyway.
Question from @markscheig: With the way the Kings are winning, do you see teams changing the way they scout and draft players?
That’s a good question, Mark. First, I don't see teams changing the way they scout and draft based on what Los Angeles is doing. Here’s my take on this: I think the Kings’ success can be attributed to their development more than anything else, and the Blue Jackets have something very similar going on in Springfield. Their systems, structure, style, expectations…all those things are established as non-negotiable when prospects come through Manchester, so when they get to Los Angeles, they know exactly what Darryl Sutter and his staff expect (and they expect a lot of every player). I think that’s a big reason why we’ve seen guys like Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez and others have such an impact for the Kings in their last two Stanley Cup runs. They draft well, yes, but they develop extremely well and that’s also the organizational model that the Blue Jackets are following.