The Jets got a bit of unhappy news this afternoon, as Zach Bogosian’s right wrist is hors de Xbox, or something along that line, and will require surgery and a recovery period lasting as long as six months. Under normal circumstances, that would be dreadful news, but with a potential lockout on the horizon, that might be downgraded to merely lousy, depending on how long the NHL is shuttered.
Beyond the unfortunate personal turn of events for a very good young defenceman who finally appeared to put the puzzle together last year, this leaves the Jets with one legitimate right D to start the season, whenever that day might come around. After a glance at the depth chart and the remaining free agents, there don’t appear to be many decent options to replace the minutes Bogosian fills, but there might be a player or two that could do a short term job.
Paul Postma had a decent chance of making the roster before this news broke, and barring some lousy play in camp, he’s now a strong favourite to be in Winnipeg this season. He’s not remotely qualified at this point to play the sort of EV minutes Bogosian eats, but his point totals in the AHL do suggest he has some ability on the PP. How well that transfers to the bigs is an open question, but if he’s at least competent on the power play, that might help with one problem created by Bogo’s absence.
The larger issue is 5v5. Bogosian managed to just about break even last year against some fairly grown-up minutes, and if Paul Postma was within hailing distance of being that good, he’d have played a regular shift in Winnipeg last year while the top 4 took turns on IR. Grant Clitsome is the other defender available internally, but his career performance shows him to be a third pairing guy and not much more. He’s an older version of Postma at this point.
The Jets could also flip Ron Hainsey to the right side, pair him with Mark Stuart, and then use others to fill the third pair. Hainsey is just OK as a top 4 option, but that comp is more than Stuart has been able to handle in the past, and watching those two be his second option at EV and first option on the PK might drive Claude Noel to empty the liquor cabinet.
With the internal solutions looking a bit thin on the ground, the Jets could cast their eyes to the free agent market if play resumes before Bogosian is ready. Those options hardly look much more appetizing, though, and only two even remotely interest me at this point.
The first option might be Michal Rozsival. The former Coyote is no kid, but if you need a man for a one year job, he might be a fit. He’s a right shooter with good size, some history that hints he could survive top 4 minutes, and if the Dustin Brown hit at the very end of last year’s Conference Championship hasn’t left him too badly dinged up, he’s likely the best of the remaining RD. He probably should have signed by now, but with the lockout uncertainty and his own run of injuries the last few years, the demand for his services was somewhat depressed. He can PK a bit and he’s competent at EV if healthy, though, and that’s about all any team might want for a short term fix.
If the Jets don’t want a one year player, the other option worth considering might be Carlo Colaiacovo. Cola’s a LD, but given Hainsey’s versatility, he’s at least worth considering. Colaiacovo’s underlying numbers were pretty good last year in St. Louis, but they do come with the caveat that his primary partner was the excellent Alex Pietrangelo. That fact alone would make me wary to pronounce him a top 4 D on his own merit, and his unsigned status would lead one to believe that the league’s GMs regard him in a similar manner. The one other bug might be the fact that at 29, Colaiacovo will probably want a multi year deal of some sort, but with Hainsey headed to UFA status next year, the Jets might be able to juggle things around if they have any serious interest.
Neither of those guys, or anyone else readily available for that matter, will be a legitimate replacement for Bogosian’s all-around game. I do think that the club needs to look outside the organization even in the short term, though, because they don’t have any internal options capable of providing any more than bottom pairing minutes at the moment. I think Cola will get a multi year deal elsewhere, and unless Cheveldayoff is really motivated to add him long term, I can’t see him coming here. If Rozsival is healthy, he might be a player the club can attract, and can fit in to keep things afloat until Bogosian heals.