A roster spot opens

June 27, 2007

Aaron Portzline reports in today’s Dispatch that the Blue Jackets will not be extending a qualifying offer to defenseman/winger Aaron Johnson.  The 24-year old Johnson is a restricted free agent.

“It was a tough decision,” Howson said. “But (Johnson) was going to get a one-way contract in an arbitration hearing, and we just weren’t comfortable with that decision.”

Hockey for Dummies Alert: As Portzline explains, a one-way contract would enable Johnson to make NHL money even if he was playing in the minor leagues.  Many players who are on the NHL bubble (frequently shuttle back and forth between the NHL and minor league hockey) are issued two-way contracts that have different salary levels depending on which team (major or minor) owns the contract at the time.  One-way contracts are frequently awarded to established players who are not expected to spend time in the minors. 

Aaron Johnson

Drew’s Analysis: Though Johnson did see time in 61 games, anyone who has watched him play would have a tough time arguing that he was an established NHL’er.  With the Jackets looking to get better and the salaries of Fedorov and Foote cramping the cap a bit, it’s no surprise that Howson and Co. are making changes.  By all accounts Aaron was a likeable guy and a hard working player, but that only gets you so far.  His talent level hasn’t risen to the point where he’s worthy of guaranteed money, and in this day and age with a salary cap in place, that’s enough to be shown the door.  It’s not any big loss for the club, especially with Mark Methot playing good minutes as he did at the end of the season.

In other news: Other restricted free agents in the Jackets organization that were tendered qualifying offers: centers Alexander Svitov and Andrew Murray, left wingers Curtis Glencross and Joakim Lindstrom, right winger Steven Goertzen, and defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.  Also, RFA right winger Jaroslav Balastik was not extended an offer.

Coming up: Here at the End of the Bench, I’ll be wrapping up the season-ending Spotlight Series in the next few weeks (hopefully very soon).  The contract of Sergei Fedorov is a figurative noose around the team’s neck right now.  I’ll be interested to see if there will be a buy-out in the near future.  Based on the lack of noise on this topic in the last week, I’m guessing it won’t happen.  And if it does happen, I’d suspect it would be in the next two days before the free agency signing period begins on July 1st.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.



  1. I always thought AJ as one of the “good guys” in the Jackets family. He was not as talented as the scouts wanted him to be but not that bad either. What ultimately did AJ in was his average skating style. As an NHL defenceman you cannot skate with such a pronounced lean when you carry the puck. Not only is your vision restricted but AJ opened himself up for injuries. The organization tried to sell AJ as a power play specialist and that moniker always puzzled me. Even when AJ was in the minors in Syracuse he was not necessarily the huge point getter. Oh well.

    Another point about AJ. I got the feeling that MacLean was bound and determined to make AJ an NHL star of sorts. But the same can be said for many young players on this team. Also, as AJ played in the QMJL (Quebec junior) there seemed to be a trend developing with players like Picard and now Brassard also being selected from this league. Someone in the organization likes this league above the others. It worked for Sidney Crosby and not so well for Alex Picard. As a side note, this league is considered the weakest of the three Canadian junior leagues. Perhaps this is an omen for Vorechek.

  2. I agree with your points on AJ. I always liked the effort and attitude he brought to the table, but the talent wasn’t what was promised.

    Your point about the junior hockey leagues interests me, so I’m going to do a little more research and put up a separate post on that topic.

    Thanks for stopping by, Patrick!

  3. […] « Dose of Reality #58 Draftees: Where did they come from? June 29th, 2007 Patrick’s comment yesterday on the Aaron Johnson post regarding the QMJHL interested me.  He mentioned that someone in the front office seems to really […]

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