A clear sign we’re scaling the peak of NHL off-season activity? A star player signs a contract, and all we want to talk about is the context, the ripple effect, how it plays into other transactions.
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Wednesday they’d locked up their franchise defenseman, Seth Jones, on a six-year, $32.4-million contract. It carries a $5.4-million cap hit. Jones was a restricted free agent and hasn’t yet maxed out the mammoth upside that made the Nashville Predators choose him fourth overall in 2013, but it was no surprise to see him bypass a short-term bridge contract. Columbus dealt its top-line center, Ryan Johansen, for Jones in January. Jones is clearly part of the Jackets’ long-term plans. He has tremendous size at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds. He’s a graceful skater and puck mover. He uses his big reach impeccably on defense, and he can wire a mean slapshot, too. There’s an excellent chance his $5.4-million cap hit looks like a bargain within a season or two. He and Zach Werenski forge a formidable blueline tandem to build around for years to come.
“He’s a guy who’s come in and solidified what our team is going to be about going forward,” said Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno Friday on a phone call with THN. “He’s a great skater, he moves the puck extremely well, and that’s what we want to see out of our back end.
“For how young he is, it’s pretty incredible the way he can command on the ice. That’s the first thing I noticed, his demeanor. His presence on the ice when he’s playing his game is felt. When he brings it, we’re a way better team. It’s exciting to know he’s going to be here for a while, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do now as he grows and becomes more mature and takes on bigger responsibilities. It’s been nothing but plusses having Seth on our team.”
BUFFALO – Night 1 of the 2016 NHL draft gave us a bit of everything, a blend of expectant nods and wide-eyed gasps.
We saw the predictable occur. Auston Matthews went first overall, Patrik Laine second. The Calgary Flames acquired a goaltender in Brian Elliott. The Chicago Blackhawks squeezed another forward out because of their salary-cap crunch in Andrew Shaw, dealt to the Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings shipped Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5-million cap hit to the one team we knew would take it: the Arizona Coyotes, striving for the salary floor.
We saw plenty of shocking moments, too. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the draft’s swing pick, usurped Jesse Puljujarvi, seemingly the consensus No. 3 overall selection. The Wings went off the board on Dennis Cholowski at No. 20 overall. We had him 37th in our 2016 Draft Preview, for what it’s worth.
But plenty of hyped storylines remain unresolved entering Day 2 of the draft. Let’s review a few.
The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t have much cap space, but that won’t matter if they lock up their restricted free agents to sweetheart deals like the one William Karlsson has inked with the club.
It was announced Thursday evening that Karlsson, 23, has signed a two-year contract to remain with the Blue Jackets, and that’s a great contract for Columbus. CapFriendly reported the contract is worth $1 million annually.
Though Karlsson didn’t exactly have the type of season that would lead any to believe he’s an offensive dynamo, he excelled as a depth center. In his first full campaign, he knocked home nine goals, tied for 15th in rookie goal scoring, and 20 points, which tied him for 20th in points for rookies.
“William Karlsson made great strides in his first NHL season and we believe that he is just beginning to come into his own as a player,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a release. “He is an important part of our young, core group of players and we are pleased that he will continue to grow, develop and contribute to our team as we move forward.” Read more
The Chicago Blackhawks wasted little time shedding salary following the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last Thursday, they shipped forwards Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes for two draft picks.
They won’t be the only cap-strapped team trying to free up salary-cap space over the next couple of weeks. With over $66 million invested in their payroll for 2016-17, the Columbus Blue Jackets must create room to re-sign restricted free agents Seth Jones and William Karlsson.
The Jackets attempted to trade left wing Scott Hartnell and defenseman Fedor Tyutin before this season’s trade deadline. It’s expected they’ll peddle both players again.
Hartnell has reportedly agreed to waive his no-movement clause and provided the Jackets with a list of several preferred destinations. If the Jackets fail to find any takers for Tyutin, he could be bought out by month’s end. Read more
When Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are drafted into the NHL a week from now, their teams in the Finnish Elite League will receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. Assuming each player earns $50 million over the course of his NHL career – which is probably being conservative – the amount their teams receive represents about one-half of one percent of their career earnings.
The teams that choose Laine and Puljujarvi – almost certainly the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets – stand to make millions in merchandising and ticket sales, particularly if each of them is a central figure in some long playoff runs. Meanwhile, the organizations that have basically developed these players from the time they were children, Tappara and Karpat, are receiving a pittance. That $240,000 is what Karpat will receive for losing Laine’s and Puljujarvi’s World Junior linemate Sebastian Aho to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week.
Nothing says the off-season quite like the threat of buyouts, and we’re inching ever-closer to the NHL’s buyout window opening and several players could see their time with their current teams come to a close.
For some of the candidates, massive contracts are at fault, while other will fall victim to underperforming or simply not fitting within a team’s structure any longer. Unfortunately, some are a combination of all three.
With the salary cap remaining relatively flat according to all reports, several teams are going to be in tough financial situations. Even a rise of $2 million in the salary cap, which is a rough estimate of the maximum amount the upper limit will rise, would still see several teams in tough cap positions. That’s not to say all players on this list will be bought out, but there’s at least a fair chance several from this list will be sent packing by way of a buyout. Read more
Scott Hartnell has spent the past two seasons as a Columbus Blue Jacket, but there appears to be a chance he enters the 2016-17 campaign pulling on another team’s jersey.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Hartnell, 34, has agreed to waive his no-move clause for several teams. Friedman added that while Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Hartnell’s agent Matt Oates refused comment on whether Hartnell has waived the clause, it’s believed that Hartnell hasn’t limited the list and Friedman called it a ‘decent-sized list’ of potential trade destinations.
Hartnell moving on could have been foreseen given the rumblings about his availability during the past campaign, but his lack of ice time and reduced role made it abundantly clear that if the veteran winger wanted to remain a top-six player, he’d have to find a spot outside of Columbus. Hartnell averaged 15:35 of ice time this past season. That’s the lowest average ice time since his third NHL campaign. But he still produced in limited minutes, and that could make him an intriguing trade option. Read more
Cleveland, at last, can lay claim to a professional sports championship. And, no, it’s not the NBA’s Cavaliers – at least, not yet.
The Lake Erie Monsters won the AHL’s Calder Cup on Saturday night as they swept aside the Hershey Bears thanks to a 1-0 overtime victory. Right winger Oliver Bjorkstrand jammed a loose puck past Bears goaltender Justin Peters with 1.9 seconds left in the first extra period to secure the historic win.
Bjorkstrand’s championship-winning goal was scored in front of 19,665 fans at Quicken Loans Arena – home of the Cavaliers, who trail the Golden State Warriors 3-1 in the NBA Finals. According to the AHL, it was the largest crowd to see a pro hockey game in Ohio and the second-largest post-season attendance total in AHL history.