The San Jose Mercury-News blogger is hearing Columbus may be shopping Nik Zherdev + the #6 pick for Patrick Marleau and an unspecified Shark. Outrage emerges from the usual quarters. Now Puck-Rakers says it’s not true, so keep your pants on.
I suspect this won’t be the last rumor before draft day. We know Columbus needs a top line center desperately if they’re to compete for a playoff spot in 2008-09, and it doesn’t look like Derick Brassard is ready for that yet, nor would any player they’re likely to nab with the #6 or #19 pick be. Which leaves the uncertainties of the UFA market, or a trade. Given that the Jackets need a #1 defenseman as well, I’d guess we’re in for at least one major trade this summer.
My initial reaction to the Zherdev rumors was opposition. Why would a team that struggles mightily to score trade away one of its two offensively capable forwards? That would be creating a hole to plug another one. The more I’ve reflected on it, though, the more logic I can see in trading Zherdev. Yes, he had a comeback season last year and demonstrated a better attitude, but we saw the same thing in the latter part of 2005-06, and then 2006-07 was a disaster for him. He may well be one of those Alexei Kovalev-esque players who can be brilliant when he’s on, and a headache when he’s not. If that’s the case, it may well be worth trading the up-and-down for a player who will be more consistent. And if so, it’s probably worth doing now, while Zherdev’s stock is relatively high.
I’m not sold that Marleau is the answer, though. His drop-off last season is troubling, especially when his pre-lockout numbers were mostly respectable, but not star level. He might be just a merely good player who caught lightning in a bottle in 2005-06 and 06-07, and is now settling back to his true level. Then again, maybe not, and maybe playing on a line with Rick Nash would be a benefit for both of them. But I’m uncomfortable with the idea of giving away the farm to get Marleau.
I’d be more apt to want to see Howson making a big deal to get Jason Spezza, who appears to be on the outs in Ottawa, and who I’ve always thought is a sublimely talented playmaker who’s been a bit forgotten in the world at large after all his pre-draft hype. He doesn’t seem like much of a Hitchcock-type player, though, which could be a problem.
In any event, the next couple of months should be interesting ones for Jackets fans, even if we have been hibernating since April…