Capitals loan Michael Nylander to Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester

capitals_primary_logo.jpgWhen the Capitals waived Michael Nylander last week, it was clear that they had a plan of attack for how to make his $4.875 million cap hit disappear once again this season. Last year, they were able to pawn him off to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins as well as off to Finland. This time around, they’re sending him to Rochester of the AHL as the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobzija reports.

“He’s coming here to help our young guys,” Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said. “He’s not coming here grumbling. He wants to resurrect his career for one more shot.”

A year ago the Capitals decided they didn’t need Nylander and he was loaned to Jokerit-Helsinki in the Finnish League 3-4-7 in 14 games) and also played for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL (2-16-18 in 24 games) on Washington’s dime.

In 2008-09, his last NHL season, he scored 9-24-33 in 72 games for the Capitals. For his career, he has 209-470-679 in 920 NHL games for the Whales, Flames, Lightning, Blackhawks, Capitals, Bruins and Rangers, as well as 12-22-34 in 47 Stanley Cup playoff games.

“He’s a quality person and a proven player,” said Mike Santos, assistant general manager of the Panthers. “I don’t know him personally but I know him from watching him score against my teams.

“I need a guy who can play in that No. 1 center role. He’s the best guy out there.”

It’s strictly a cap move for the Capitals and for the Panthers, they get to have a guy play on their minor league team that will help their young players out. After seeing Nylander play during the World Championships in Germany, he still has solid skills although one thing I noticed about his game is that he seemed to not want to pass the puck much at all, leading to turnovers in the offensive zone and missed opportunities.

That said, getting a guy like this to lend some veteran know-how to an AHL locker room can be a big get and for a Panthers farm team that’s very green and very young, Nylander will help out there. For the Capitals, they’re just happy to have someone take their financial mistake off their hands for them.

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    Blue Jackets need Bobrovsky at his best to take the next step

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    This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

    When it came time for the annual NHL Awards, Sergei Bobrovsky‘s rebound season was, deservedly so, recognized with a Vezina Trophy.

    (He was also a finalist for the Hart Trophy but that went to phenom forward Connor McDavid.)

    At the heart of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ franchise record-setting season, which saw them win 50 games and post 108 points while competing for the Metropolitan Division, was the performance of Bobrovsky. He was brilliant, particularly after his previous season didn’t go according to plan, in large part because of injuries.

    He posted 41 wins over 63 starts, the most in a single season for him, and a .931 save percentage. That last stat technically isn’t an individual career best for Bobrovsky, although the one time he achieved a better save percentage was over 38 games during the lockout-shortened season.

    Critical to his play was the fact he was able to remain healthy — a priority for Columbus heading into last season, and something that will need to continue once again in 2017-18. He was able to gain confidence in his own game and help propel his teammates to a different level, as the Blue Jackets competed with Pittsburgh and Washington through a good portion of the season for the division lead.

    “When Bob’s at his game and feeling good, it brings a whole different kind of confidence into that room,” team captain Nick Foligno told the Associated Press last season.

    Where Bobrovsky has struggled is in the playoffs. That continued again this past spring. In five games against a talented Penguins roster in the opening round, he allowed 20 goals against with an .882 save percentage, and is reportedly open to the idea of seeing a sports psychologist to help get over that hurdle.

    With a good young roster, the Blue Jackets took quite a step forward last season. There was another productive year from Cam Atkinson. Zach Werenski impressed as a rookie defenseman. The biggest difference, however, was the goaltending Bobrovsky provided.

    It’s difficult to believe April’s playoff struggles will have much, if any, impact on Bobrovsky heading into the new season. After all, he was able to prove in the weeks before that he can bounce back from disappointing times.

    And he was able to prove that, when at his best, the Blue Jackets could be a dangerous team.

    After another productive season, Cam Atkinson enters contract year with Blue Jackets

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    This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

    Cam Atkinson had already proven himself to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. It was a mark he hit three consecutive times prior to last season.

    And that’s when the former sixth-round pick from 2008 really broke out.

    Atkinson, now 28 years old, led the Blue Jackets in scoring with 62 points. What highlighted his point totals was the fact he scored 35 goals — leading the team in that category, as well — in a year when only seven other players in the entire league were able to best his total, Sidney Crosby leading the way with 44.

    Despite his output at the time, Atkinson was originally a snub from the 2017 All-Star Game before getting added to the event when Evgeni Malkin couldn’t participate because of injury.

    Another area where Atkinson has been so valuable for the Blue Jackets has been on the power play. Of the 62 points he recorded last season, 21 of those were with the man advantage. He finished in a three-way tie for second on the team in that category.

    It is worth pointing out that with the addition of Artemi Panarin, the Columbus coaching staff may have an adjustment in mind for Atkinson, according to assistant coach Brad Larsen.

    From The Columbus Dispatch:

    Larsen said plans can change – prospects are still a month away from leaving for Traverse City – but his first thought is to play Panarin at his familiar spot and slide Atkinson to the middle slot, one open with the free-agent defection of Sam Gagner.

    “Panarin has had a ton of success on that off side with his one-timer,” Larsen said. “If I was going to say right now, I would say he’s going to start there. Cam has done an outstanding job there and we might shift him into the middle. Again, there are going to be discussions and we haven’t really gotten into it.”

    While the Blue Jackets enter the season looking to build on a franchise record-setting 2016-17 campaign, Atkinson enters the final year of his current contract, which has a cap hit of $3.5 million and a total salary of $4.5 million, according to CapFriendly.

    Aaron Portzline of The Athletic recently suggested market value on a long-term contract for Atkinson — who turns 29 years old next June, only a few weeks before free agency opens — may be between $5 million to “maybe” $6 million annually.

    That’s a nice raise. Not bad for a player taken 157th overall in 2008. He now sits fourth among players from that draft class in career goals, behind only Steven Stamkos, Jordan Eberle and Derek Stepan.

    Atkinson is now eligible to sign an extension, but for right now, the Blue Jackets still need to get restricted free agents Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg under contract for the upcoming season.

    Looking to make the leap: Pierre-Luc Dubois

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    This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

    Columbus surprised people when they took Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi with the third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Now Dubois is tasked with showing that they made the right call.

    While Puljujarvi did get his first taste of the NHL last season with Edmonton, Dubois spent the full campaign in the QMJHL. However, Dubois is entering training camp with a real shot of landing a job with Columbus.

    His versatility should work in his favor throughout his battle for a roster spot. Dubois is capable of serving as a winger or center and while he’s offensively gifted, he’s also a physical force.

    It doesn’t hurt that he took his additional season at the junior level as a learning experience. He was able to play a full campaign at center and work on his positioning. He was also dealt from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the season, which gave him the benefit of experiencing a different system.

    “It was a little more of a defensive (style),” Dubois said of Blainville-Boisbriand’s system, per NHL.com. “That’s how we won our games, by scores of 2-1. It was a more pro-style game. I learned a lot from that.”

    All that being said, he still has an uphill battle ahead of him. There’s a potential opening for him, but it’s not a given that he’ll secure that job and even if he does get a chance with Columbus, he’ll have to work hard to make his stint with them be more than just a nine-game trial.

    The 19-year-old can’t play in the AHL yet either, so if he doesn’t find a role with the Blue Jackets then he’ll have to play in the QMJHL again. By contrast, Puljujarvi was able to be sent to the AHL last season and if he doesn’t play for Edmonton in 207-18 then he’ll at least be able to get ice time against men in the minors.

    When PHT asked the question last year if the Blue Jackets were right in selecting Dubois over Puljujarvi roughly two-thirds of voters said no. Perhaps Dubois will be able to change some minds this season.

    Related: Getting sent to junior made Blue Jackets prospect Dubois a ‘more mature’ player

    Callahan (hip) will be fine for start of training camp

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    Ryan Callahan could only play in 18 games last season and underwent two hip surgeries, but perhaps 2017-18 will be different. The news is certainly good so far.

    “I’m full go, right from Day One,” Callahan told the NHL.com. “It’s going to be nice to be able to do a hard training camp this year.”

    His statement was reinforced by the fact that he participated in the first day of voluntary workouts on Monday.

    Tampa Bay signed him to a six-year, $34.8 million contract in the summer of 2014 and while he was great for the first year of the deal, he declined in 2015-16 and then of course barely played last season. That’s led to concerns that the 32-year-old’s contract might prove to be disastrous in its back half.

    “I know there’s chatter and people doubt me — if I can come back and what I’ll be like when I come back,” Callahan said. “I’ve always tried to use it as motivation. That’s how they propelled me to the place I am right now in my career. I’m looking at this the same way. I’m excited to get going this year. I think it’s going to be one of the best years I’ve ever had.”

    Tampa Bay could certainly use the help. The Lightning fell short of the playoffs last season, but also missed Steven Stamkos for much of the campaign as well as Callahan. If those two stay healthy and if Callahan bounces back then Tampa Bay could be one of the major contenders in 2017-18.