This was a comment on the Koivu vs Morrison post, but I decided to give it its own fan post.
I just look at who’s available via trade and/or free agency. Saku Koivu and Brendan Morrison seemed like true upgrades over what we have now. Jason Williams might be a good fit, but I don’t see him as significantly better than Brooks Laich. I think he’d be fine here, but why do that?
Other players available via trade include Patrick Marleau ($6.5 cap hit) and Jason Arnott ($4.5) and they’re too expensive. Other free agent centers include Mike Comrie, who’s coming off a sub-par year and is a me-first person. Mike Sillinger is 38. Lang would be good, and I like him, but again, he’s 38, and like Sillinger, is coming off a major injury last season. And at what cost do we get them? The other guys on that list don’t even fit with what we need.
The other interesting guy available via trade? Jeff Halpern. With one year and $2 million left on his contract, we could ship salary eater Morrisonn down there (and whatever other ancillaries like picks and prospects, I don’t really care) since Tampa loves former Caps and needs defenseman. Halpern is a fan favorite, brings grit and such, but he’s really a high #3/low #2 center at his peak. Again, I don’t see him as an upgrade over Laich, who had 53 points and was the #35 highest scoring center in the NHL last season, which, if I’m not mistaken, would put him in #2 center scoring territory, ahead of guys like Brendan Morrison, Todd Marchant, Keith Tkachuk, Jason Williams, Mike Modano, Michael Nylander, and higher than guys who had injuries, like Robert Lang, Saku Koivu, Andy McDonald, Tim Connolly, Brad Richards, Sergei Fedorov, and Doug Weight, and, of course, Mats Sundin. He was also within 5 points of such vaunted centers as Jason Arnott (57), Olli Jokinen (57), Chris Drury (56), and Scott Gomez (58). I think Koivu and Morrison are true upgrades that have potential to work, I think Jason Williams is maybe a slight upgrade (with skill being the priority). Morrison and Williams could be had for less than $3 million, making them affordable. I don’t see Koivu taking less than $4 million.
I think Laich is the logical choice. If Nylander can be the Nylander from 2007-08 (healthy and producing), I don’t have a problem keeping him, but what are the odds of that after last season? We already know Nylander-Semin is a breakaway against waiting to happen. Anton Gustafsson and Marcus Johansson aren’t ready yet. Keith Aucoin might not be bad, but is he really a #2 NHL centerman? Is Mathieu Perreault, another midget like Aucoin, ready to be a #2 NHL center? I don’t see anyone else being a capable #2 center on the roster.
Honestly, if we can get Morrison at $2-2.5 for one year, we shuold grab him. If we can get Williams at 1 year for $2 mil or under, I’d be okay with it. As for Koivu, it would be up to GMGM to decide whether he wants someone of that stature on the roster, because he won’t be cheap, but he’d be a hell of a guy to have on the team.
Barring those moves, Laich should be the man to beat for #2 center. If Nylander’s still here at training camp, I think he has to earn it by beating Laich out for the spot. I also say give Perreault a shot in camp to see what he could do. He had a very solid rookie campaign in the AHL. I think he’s better off with another year in the AHL, but hey, you never know.