I’ve been in my meetings all morning chomping at the bit to post about this one! I’m admittedly not as much of a Vermette fan as some CBJ fans seem to be — I see him as a decent second line center more than as the man on the first line. Although with as well as Brassard played before his injury, that might not be a problem. In any event, Vermette certainly gives the Jackets more strength down center ice. No question about that. And given the team’s continued weakness down the middle, even before the Brassard injury, this was a good deal by Howson to shore that up.
I also have some mixed feelings about losing Leclaire. It does feel like a lot of fans turned on him very quickly when he struggled this season. I think we’ve seen that he has a lot of talent and can potentially be a very good NHL starting goalie — with the huge IF that he needs to stay healthy for that to happen, and he hasn’t been consistently healthy at any point in his pro career. And given the emergence of Mason, Pascal would have been forced into a backup role. His contract was far too rich to be a backup in a salary cap world. And even though Pascal hasn’t been known as a diva-esque goalie like some we have known — coughFreddy Norrenacough –, any competitive young goalie isn’t going to be happy for long getting backup minutes. So it was probably inevitable that he would be moved.
I do worry about what happens if Mason falters or gets hurt, since the organization is now extremely thin for depth in goal. Norrena is gone. Dubie doesn’t seem to have the confidence of Hitchcock. LaCosta played well in his short stint in the NHL, but could he handle the load if he had to take it for an extended time? I do hope we see a deal for a goalie, if not now, then in the offseason.
I also see some parallels with the Zherdev deal. Pascal could go to Ottawa and light it up next season — we know he has the ability to do that. If Mason struggles in his sophomore year, are we going to hear laments that Howson should have stuck with Pascal, the same way certain people keep bringing up Zherdev’s scoring in New York (even though Tyutin has been a good addition)? Hindsight’s always 20/20 and of course all fans always know better than the GM…
In any event, welcome to Columbus, Antoine Vermette. And good luck in Ottawa, Pascal Leclaire.