Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart, Matt D'Agostini, Craig Rivet

Blue Jackets let three former captains walk

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are dropping plenty of hints that the organization is going to shake things up. One of the most recent hints, albeit not surprising, will be changes to the roster. Pending free agents Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark, and Craig Rivet have all been notified by the Blue Jackets organization that they will not be returning to the team next season. Each of the (now former) players were brought in by Jackets management with the intention of bringing veteran leadership. In fact, each one of these players was the captain on their previous team. The announcement that each of the players will not be offered contracts could signify a change in philosophy for the team who only has one playoff appearance in franchise history.

The announcement is only the latest move that is making headlines around the league. First, the team announced they were firing their director of pro scouting and their assistant general manager. Next, they have been publically linked to rumors that have them acquiring Jeff Carter from Philadelphia in a salary dump move for the Flyers. Now we hear the team is shedding themselves of the majority of their (perceived) veteran leadership.

The change isn’t simply for the sake of change. Aaron Portzline from the Columbus Dispatch explains exactly what the Blue Jackets stand to gain by letting the veterans go:

“… but it frees up $8.13 million in salary cap space and roughly $7.75 million in actual salary. The Blue Jackets are expecting to be aggressive in free agency, but it’s unclear if GM Scott Howson still feels as if the dressing room needs a veteran voice to steer the youngsters.

The word around the league is the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be active participants in the free agent market. The mandate from management is to start winning more games so the team can limit the $25 million in losses they incurred last season. Instead of simply slashing payroll to save cash, the Blue Jackets are expected to make acquisitions and put a more competitive product on the ice to bring in the fans. From a fan’s perspective, you can’t ask for anything more from an ownership group.

For the veteran trifecta, it could mean the end of the road for all three. While all three have made a name for themselves around the league as great locker room guys, their productivity on the ice last season left plenty to be desired. Waiver wire pick-up Ethan Morrow was on the shelf twice with various injuries. Craig Rivet was acquired via re-entry waivers, played 14 games for the Jackets and still managed to post a minus 7. Chris Clark only managed 8 goals and 20 points in 89 games since being acquired from the Washington Capitals.

Never say never as the offseason always provides plenty of surprises. But unless there’s a team out there willing to sign a guy strictly for leadership qualities, we may have seen the last of all three players.

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

torchettiiowa
via Iowa Wild
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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)