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.”
For Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s, it appears the more netminders his team has to work with, the merrier.
The Jets announced Tuesday that they have signed Michael Hutchinson, 26, to a two-year deal worth $1.15 million per season. The contract comes as Hutchinson, who posted a 9-15-3 record, 2.84 goals against average and .907 save percentage in 2015-16, was set to become a restricted free agent. And though it signals the Jets getting another one of their assets under wraps, it doesn’t necessarily make a crowded crease any less so.
During the 2015-16 season, the Jets split their crease three ways. Ondrej Pavelec, 28, started 31 games, Connor Hellebuyck, 23, started 26 games and Hutchinson started the remaining 25 games. Whether Jets fans like it or not, it appears a similar three-headed monster will be between the pipes this coming season. Read more
In recent weeks, Colorado Avalanche restricted free agent defenseman Tyson Barrie was a hot topic in the trade rumor mill. But according to Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, the 24-year-old blueliner isn’t going anywhere.
The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports Sakic said he’ll be meeting with Barrie’s agents during the upcoming NHL draft in hopes of working out a new long-term contract.
Sakic tells Chambers that if they cannot work out a new agreement, it’s expected Barrie will head to arbitration. “Either way, he’ll be here,” said the Avs GM.
It’s possible Sakic called his rival GMs to gauge their level of interest in Barrie and the type of return he might fetch. That could account for the recent speculation involving Barrie. Taking Sakic at his word, it’s evident the Avs wish to keep Barrie in the fold for at least the immediate future.
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.
The Winnipeg Jets enter the off-season in an interesting place.
After a post-season appearance in 2014-15, the Jets struggled in the tough Central Division in 2015-16 and wound up with the second-overall pick in the upcoming draft. But sometimes lost in the excitement surrounding the possibility of landing fantastic Finn Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi — or maybe even Auston Matthews if the Toronto Maple Leafs take a gamble with the first-overall pick — is that Winnipeg still has some housekeeping to take care of.
The Jets have a number of interesting restricted free agents to take care of this off-season, chief among which are center Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba. It seems certain that Scheifele will end up landing a significant raise on a longer-term deal, but the same can’t be said for Trouba, which has led to rumors surrounding the 22-year-old blueliner. Trouba is seen as a rearguard who has huge potential that he’s yet to reach, and there has been rumors in the past that he could be looking for a contract that reflects his ceiling.
However, amidst the rumors, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff wants to make one thing clear: he’s not looking to move Trouba out of Winnipeg. Read more
With the NHL draft and free agency fast approaching, speculation persists in the Boston media over what Bruins GM Don Sweeney will do to bolster his D-corps.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports free agency isn’t Sweeney’s preferred route this summer. However, he points out that puck-moving blueliners such as the New York Rangers’ Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski of the Dallas Stars could be available if the Bruins GM opts to dive into the free-agent pool.
Haggerty also reports of trade rumors suggesting young defenders such as Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets, Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche and Hampus Lindholm of the Anaheim Ducks could be available. However, he worries the Bruins could lack the resources to land one of them.
BUFFALO – The main attraction at today’s draft combine access was top-rated Auston Matthews, as it probably should be. But for the few reporters who went to Jesse Puljujarvi first, a new personality could be seen. Puljujarvi, it seems, won’t be taking a back seat to anyone for much longer.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome last suited up on Jan. 3, 2015, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Little did he know it would be the last time ever that he would do so.
Following that contest, a 5-1 Jets victory in which Clitsome would skate 20-plus minutes, he would be forced to go under the knife for back surgery. He missed the final 43 regular season contests, all four playoff games and then was placed on the injured reserve before the 2015-16 season began. Clitsome didn’t play a single game this past season, and Tuesday, the 31-year-old rearguard officially announced his retirement.
“It is with great regret, that today I announce my retirement from hockey due to a back injury,” said Clitsome in a release. “It’s tough when something unexpected, and out of your control, suddenly ends your career. Despite the circumstances, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream and play in the NHL. I am also very grateful for all the great people that I have met, and all the friendships that I have made playing hockey.” Read more