Christian Ehrhoff (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
The biggest names remaining in free agency are all defensemen and there could still be some big impact signings coming down the pike. The Columbus Blue Jackets have shown interest in blueliner Christian Ehroff, the Boston Bruins could be a destination for Cody Franson and the Detroit Red Wings could have trade options if teams are looking to bolster their backend.
The Columbus Blue Jackets could add a veteran defenseman before the start of 2015-16. Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports sources claiming Jackets management have had discussions with free-agent blueliner Christian Ehrhoff, who's coming off a one-year, $4-million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Portzline suggests a deal between the Blue Jackets and the 33-year-old Ehrhoff is possible, provided the latter remains on the free-agent market long enough to drive down his asking price. Despite missing 33 games last season due to head injuries, the puck-moving rearguard could help the Blue Jacket's power play.
The Jackets only have around $3.6 million in cap space for 2015-16, which Portzline believes is why they're willing to be patient in their dealings with Ehrhoff. He also notes several other defensemen, including Andrej Meszaros, Cody Franson and Marek Zidlicky are available, but hasn't yet confirmed if the Jackets are interested in them.
It's possible the Jackets get Ehrhoff under a one-year deal for less than half of what he earned last season with the Penguins. He will be much more affordable than Franson, who's younger and healthier but also believed seeking a lucrative long-term deal.
While waiting out Ehrhoff is a good strategy, it creates the possibility of another club signing him before the Jackets can. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney isn't ruling out adding a veteran defenseman. Haggerty includes Ehrhoff on his list of potential free-agent targets. The Bruins have also had discussions with Franson.
If the Blue Jackets can't find what they're looking for via free agency, perhaps they'll go the trade route this summer or during training camp. The Edmonton Journal's Jonathan Willis wonders if the Jackets would be interested in Justin Schultz if the Oilers agreed to pick up half of his $3.9- million salary for 2015-16. Willis suggests the Oilers could then use the savings to sign a better defenseman like Franson.
It's an interesting theory, but unlikely to happen. The Oilers appear keen to give the 25-year-old Schultz a chance to improve under new coach Todd McLellan. Unless they get Franson under contract before swinging such a deal, it could be risky move on their part to ship away Schultz.
The Detroit Red Wings could be a better trade partner for the Jackets. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press observes the Wings have a logjam on defense. She claims they're in no hurry to clear it, as promising rearguards Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul can be demoted without passing through waivers.
If one of those youngsters cracks the roster for 2015-16, the Wings could consider dealing a veteran defenseman. Kyle Quincey's $4.25-million cap hit would be too expensive for the Jackets, but Jakub Kindl ($2.4 million) might be an option. However, the 28-year-old Kindl has struggled to establish himself as a reliable NHL blueliner. The Jackets could prefer a more experienced rearguard to help their power play.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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