Tracking Howson

The player in photo is Sheldon Brookbank, the first official transaction in the GM career of Scott Howson. The Blue Jackets signed Brookbank to a reasonable contract on July 2nd, a couple of weeks after Howson got the job. The negotiations were probably underway before Howson got there, and any reasonable assessment of this summer’s BJ moves would have to include a giant asterisk to explain that Howson just got there, but he seems to be settling in quietly and making some very nice buy low moves:

  1. Brookbank is 6-2, 200, not terribly skilled but has toughness and plays a simple game. He’d be a guy the Blue Jackets might use this winter in the 5-6 role on the blueline, or maybe he spends another season in the minors. They got him for $500k.
  2. He also resigned Ole Kristian Tollefsen. He’s a big guy who can hit and looks like he has a brain out there. Tollefson is an intriguing player. 2-year deal averaging $675k.
  3. Same day he signed Alexander Svitov. Svitov was an rfa, he’s got all kind of potential and a wide range of skills, he’s a guy Hitchcock might light a fire under. Two year deal averaging $1.125M.
  4. First UFA signing was Jiri Novotny. He’s a good gamble at the price, former first rounder is a big center with some skill and he’s young (24 later this month). Washington didn’t qualify him and it isn’t like he’s going to score 50 but he’s a nice bet. Two year deal averaging $750k is a good price.
  5. Signed D Jan Hejda. I’m going to call inside knowledge here, but this was a nice signing. Hejda impressed pretty much everyone with his play as an Oiler and at age 29 he’s a player who can contribute right away for Columbus. One year deal at $1M.
  6. They signed Jakub Voracek, their very nice first round pick in this summer’s draft. There were lots of knowledgable Oilers posters who liked him for the EDM pick at #6. They also drafted Maxim Mayorov ahead of EDM later in the draft, and a small kid named Stefan Legein who scored 43 goals in the OHL this past season and a kid from Dublin, Ohio (Trent Vogelhuber).

In the paper today (Columbus Dispatch) comes this in regard to veteran David Vyborny:

“I’ve talked to David and I’ve talked to his agent, Rich Winter,” general manager Scott Howson said. “David has expressed an interest in staying in Columbus for the long term. That was nice to hear.”

Vyborny, a right winger, is the franchise leader in games played (477), points (291) and assists (185). He’ll make $2.2 million this season.

“David has made a decision that he’d like to stay in Columbus as long as the Blue Jackets would like to have him,” Winter said.It’s likely an extension will be agreed upon by the midpoint of this season.”I told Rick that we’re going to get through the first part of the year, then have a discussion,” Howson said. “I have to get to know the players better before I start thinking long term with the veterans.”

Sound management.

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24 Responses to "Tracking Howson"

  1. MikeP says:

    Agreed, good management by Howson.

    But more importantly, why does Brookbank apparently have a *baseball glove* on his jersey? It almost looks like a Milwaukee Brewers logo, if I recall correctly (it’s been 20 years since I paid any attention to baseball whatsoever).

  2. Lowetide says:

    mikep: Yeah, I have a vague recall on that logo, and the name Robin Yount comes to mind. Do they still play baseball? I remember there was an American and a National League at one time, and they played for the World Series.

    Then one day George Steinbrenner decided his Yankees couldn’t win that year so he had muppet Bud Selig shut it down. After that it’s a blur.

    I think maybe they ran out of wood for bats, that’s why baseball ended.

  3. rickibear says:

    You forgot that Baseball was saved by maple. Bats were now made by a harder wood. So guys like Sammy, Mark, and Alex could hit Balls farther. If I am not mistaken That is why we don’t have wood hockey sticks anymore.

  4. Boondock says:

    Let’s not forget that this guy was the Oiler’s “capologist” when they didn’t let Smytty go over a couple bucks. When KLo said “If only I’d known…”, wasn’t it Howson’s job to tell him?

  5. Lowetide says:

    boondock: I don’t know that it’s that easy to stick that to Howson, or Lowe for that matter. A few people (before me) have suggested the EIG might be the culprit in that story, and since we’ll never know I think it’s at least fair to have everyone share in the blame.

  6. oilerdiehard says:

    I would say he is a play it safe guy over all but it looks like he made some good bets there.

    As the Columbus fans pointed out until a couple big contracts come off the books at years end, with their team budget, he is pretty limited this off season with what he can do. Next Summer should be an interesting one to watch what he does.

  7. MikeP says:

    I have a strong suspicion that the difference with Smyth was never about the money; that was just a convenient story that everybody would accept.

    I really think Smyth left because it was the end of his time in Edmonton, and I wonder how much of that was his idea.

    I have no evidence for this, but the $100k difference is just too easy. I find it very hard to believe that one of the sides wouldn’t have said fine, we’ll meet in the middle.

  8. Lowetide says:

    mikep: If I had to make a bet, it would be that management decided after G7 SCF that he wasn’t going to be the centerpiece moving forward.

    I have no evidence, and this is in hindsight, but they handed out so much money summer ’06 and when you look at the roster the two players who stand out from the 05-06 reg. season and not getting raises were Smyth and Torres.

    Torres got his money this year, Smyth was knocking but no one answered.

    That’s my take.

  9. Big T says:

    Watching Howson make smart bets for cheap and sign quality like Hejda makes me feel like I’m longing for an ex-girlfriend.

    The Jacket’s may well have an exciting future. Time will tell.


  10. PunjabiOil says:

    Federov (6M) + Foote (4.6M) all off the books next summer.

    Apparently the ownership group in Columbus also have a strict budget – Columbus fans claiming Howson only had 2-3M to play with this offseason

  11. godot10 says:

    Howson will have the cap space to make an offersheet to an RFA next year to get a centre for Rick Nash.

    Ryan Getzlaf anyone?

  12. godot10 says:

    Most of the guys Lowe signed before Smyth were UFA’s or RFA’s that had to be signed.

    Staios and Moreau took home town discounts (i.e. they were willing to deal), although Moreau did get that upfront “balloon” payment/bonus. i.e. Lowe made sure he had his future leadership duo signed.

    Smyth was second last (Jason Smith was last because he still had two years on his contract) because he wanted to be shown the money. If Lowe had signed Smyth first before signing Staios and Moreau, Staios and Moreau would have been far more costly and difficult to sign.

    And Lowe made sure the intial years of Hemsky’s and Horcoff’s contract did NOT exceed what Ryan was being paid (Horc might have been 100K more).

    Staios and Moreau (and apparently, Hemsky), low maintenance; Ryan Smyth, high maintenance.

    The Oilers have Hemsky and Penner signed for the next five years, their peak 20-something years, for a cap hit of $4.1 and $4.25. Horcoff, who is the best value for money at centre in the league, signed for two more years at under $4 million. They have Pisani, who is the best “glue” player, in the league signed for 3 more at $2.5. Look at the big picture.

    Penner for 5 years and Smyth for 5 years were both high risk moves, but Penner in his twenties is a lower risk move than Smyth in his thirties.

    Could the Oilers have made an organizational decision that they could really only keep one of Staios and Smith, and that Smyth’s money would be better spent on somebody closer in age to Hemsky? Probably. But in the end they offered Smyth pretty much what he was asking for, and he still turned it down.

  13. Lowetide says:

    godot10: We’ll have to agree to disagree. Ryan Smyth is the guy you sign because the market for him is immense, Moreau and Staios are quality role players (team leaders, good soldiers, etc).

    But Ryan Smyth was a key player on this hockey club, and as such rewarding him summer ’06 was the right move if they planned on keeping him.

    Which I don’t think they did. In hindsight.

  14. Big T says:


    Have you had a look at next year??? I have no idea how this team keeps Stoll and Pitkanen without icing an entire fourth line of scrubs. Maybe that’s the plan?

    Take a look though if you have time.


  15. Lowetide says:

    big t: I’m afraid to. :-)

  16. godot10 says:

    //Have you had a look at next year??? I have no idea how this team keeps Stoll and Pitkanen without icing an entire fourth line of scrubs. Maybe that’s the plan?//

    Welcome to the capped NHL.

    Sanderson $1.5, Reasoner $0.95, and Tarnstrom $2 million come off the books, so re-signing Stoll and Pitkanen should not be a problem.

    Plus, since the loonie is already much higher than it was last year, and likely to go higher, the salary cap is almost certainly going to go up merely because of the currency inflating revenues for the NHL in US dollars.

  17. IceDragoon says:

    Hindsight is a wonderful tool when used appropriately… fleshing out one’s comprehension.

    New info added to old news never changes the past, and expecting someone to have been clairvoyant is absurd, no matter how aggressively one spews to the contrary.

    Ryan Getzlaf anyone?

    thanx for that.


    a climbing CAD,
    new jerseys,
    $100MM from CBC…

    Who here thinks the cap will be anything south of $55MM?

    Me neither.

  18. IceDragoon says:

    Drat! I knew I should have checked my facts first.

    CBC big bucks don’t kick in till next year.

    The cap may still hit my mark, tho.

  19. Lowetide says:

    I don’t know, Louise. If you and I were sipping a beer in summer ’06 before the dollars were heading elsewhere, would Ryan Smyth be the first player mentioned?

    Probably not, there were ufa’s and such, and no fault to anyone for signing Hemsky long term and making him a priority. But at some point with Ryan Smyth out there we would have discussed it, and certainly the Oilers would have thought about it.

  20. IceDragoon says:

    Drat x 2

    Sorry, Lain.

    I meant… kudos for appropriate usage. My hindsight agrees with yours. There’s more to it than meets the eye.

    and then, I was reminded of a pet peeve and couldn’t resist…

    and then, I got a call, was rushed and didn’t proof.

    You know I’m old, right?

  21. Lowetide says:

    Louise: We’re both pretty young, I’d say. :-) It’s like when the car rolls over from 999,999 to 1. Good as new! :-)

  22. Dennis says:

    More and more, I could side with Lain that moving 94 was more about budget restraints than anything else. But keeping that in mind, there’s still no excuse for not moving him last summer for some real players and even with your hands somewhat tied, you still have to make room for 94 given what his role was on the club. I can say that I think both the EIG and Lowe had a role in this debacle but when it comes down to brass tacks, Lowe had to decide to make the room for him somewhere and somehow.

  23. IceDragoon says:

    Lowe had to decide to make the room for him somewhere and somehow.

    What if he didn’t fit in KLo’s post-pronger-plan (past the survive a year without losing any of the young, up & coming core part), Dennis?

    Centering the core around FCP, Smytty was the right age & down the pecking/contribution order from a superstar taking a $6.25MM bite out of his (ridiculously low) budget.

    Trading Smyth within weeks of losing FCP (and all the veteran rentals) would have had the natives heading for the nearest bridge, and/or to Oilers HQ with pitchforks and torches. Don’t forget… EIG’s mandate is to keep butts in the seats come hell or high ticket prices.

    The fact that KLo didn’t get his puck-moving D during the season suggests to me that GMs were making preposterous demands similar to ‘Staios + Torres for Biron’ and ‘Hemsky for Cujo’ in ’05-’06. Better to make no trade than a bad trade, correct?

    Before you go there ;-D
    A superstar demanding a trade will always bring a bad return for the present. Sometimes you have to get as much as you can (5 assets, 1 used in landing Pitkanen) and cut your losses. There’s no denying it was a bad trade… at least till the assets bear some fruit. ;-D

    Starting to negotiate with Smytty mid-season adds to my speculation above. “Can’t get what I want without losing what I need, so I’ll have to make do with what’s in front of me.” fwiw – I think $5MM was KLo’s high water mark for Smyth, and any amount over that was a bluff to prove to himself where Ryan’s priorities were.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me Ryan Smyth is ‘drop dead gorgeous’. He’s been one of my faves since… forever, it seems.

    But… at the end of the day
    he put money ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Kevin Lowe put the Edmonton Oilers ahead of himself.

    Shortly thereafter, KLo showed a new/old attitude. If I’m reading our GM rightly… the budget is his to set and use at his discretion. There are no EIG excuses in the 5 year Hemsky plan… imho.


  24. Master Lok says:

    FWIW, I agree with IceD. I think that $5M was tops for Smytty last season, but the wallet has been opened up a bit this off-season.

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