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.

Jets’ Enstrom undergoes second knee surgery in 12 months

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There’s not much left for Winnipeg to play for — just five regular-season games left, and no playoffs on the horizon — so today’s news that Tobias Enstrom has undergone season-ending knee surgery isn’t a crippling development.

Can’t be good, though.

Enstrom’s had a difficult year health-wise and, at the time of surgery, was dealing with a concussion suffered on a Tom Sestito hit back in early March. Prior to that, he missed time while attending to a family matter in his native Sweden and, prior to that, was shut down late last season to undergo knee surgery.

It’s unclear if today’s procedure was related to the one Enstrom had last March.

It is worth noting that, at the time of last year’s surgery, head coach Paul Maurice noted the 32-year-old had been dealing with the injury for months.

“He’s been able to get through it because of blocks of days off. If he can get a two day block, he’d get a little better and it’s just getting worse,” Maurice said, per Global News. “It got to the point that he’s not recovering and he hasn’t been. He hasn’t been for almost a month now. He’s not recovering enough on his days off for the pain ever to subside.”

All told, Enstrom appeared in 60 games this year, scoring 14 points while averaging just under 22 minutes per night. Next season will be the last of a five-year, $28.75 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

“I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Raanta will start one of the final two games.

The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Reinhart suggests benching was a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

North Dakota’s Poolman turns pro, signs with Jets

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Another day, another North Dakota departure.

Having already lost freshman Tyson Jost (signed with Colorado) and sophomore Brock Boeser (signed with Vancouver), the school has now learned that junior blueliner Tucker Poolman has signed an entry-level deal with the Jets.

Poolman, 23, was taken by Winnipeg in the fifth round (127th overall) at the ’13 draft. From the Free Press:

UND’s top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

Poolman’s final campaign ended on a sour note. He suffered a shoulder injury during the NCHC championship game and was unable to play in North Dakota’s season-ending loss to Boston University in the NCAA championships.