Did we witness the death of the ‘untradeable contract’ this weekend?

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There are times when NHL general managers justify their existences by finding talent that no one else knows about or trusting players to grow when others lose patience. On the other hand, there are moments when you wonder how exactly they found their way into that position in the first place.

It’s bad enough when a player receives a laughably huge contract that towers above his true skill. You could also hear the guffaws from around the league when the New York Rangers signed Scott Gomez to a seven-year, $51.5 million contract and when the Chicago Blackhawks massively overpaid for Brian Campbell with an eight-year, $57.14 million deal.

To some extent, you could give GMs a half-pass for getting caught up in the frenzy of free agency, though. What is really surprising is that lightning can strike twice when another GM agrees to take on albatross deals via trades.

Dale Tallon makes the same Soupy mistake twice

The once-unthinkable notion of the Blackhawks somehow getting out of Campbell’s contract actually became a reality. It’s important to note that Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was the genius who gave “Soupy” that contract in the first place and his team is far below the $48.3 million salary cap floor right now, though. That being said, Campbell’s hysterical $7.14 million annual salary cap won’t evaporate until after the 2015-16 season. (That sound you heard is the countless cackles of Chicago fans.)

Campbell’s deal wasn’t the only mammoth one to move since the day before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft; it was just the ugliest.

Two risky Flyers who could end up being bargains

Moving past the fact that it’s a mind-numbing risk to give players long-term deals in such a violent sport, both Jeff Carter (11-year, $58 million; expires in 21-22) and Mike Richards’ (12-year, $69 million; expires in 19-20) deals aren’t too awful from a salary cap standpoint. It might be true that Carter is a one-dimensional goal scorer, but it’s one heck of a dimension; it wouldn’t be crazy to think that the Columbus Blue Jackets basically traded for 250-300 goals over the remainder of that contract.

Richards could be an even better fit for the Kings, though. It’s stunning to realize how much people underrate the two-way center’s abilities. Perhaps it is because Richards’ regular season point production has been a bit underwhelming lately (60 points in 2009-10 and 66 last season), but he has an 80 and 75-point season under his belt. Richards also came through big-time in Philly’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals by scoring 23 points in 23 games. Combine that scoring ability with his (sometimes over the line) physicality and heady defensive play and you realize the Kings added a player who could be just as good as their other star center Anze Kopitar for less money per year. (Richards’ cap hit is $5.75 million; Kopitar’s deal registers a $6.8 million annual hit.)

A surprising market for Ryan Smyth

Don’t get me wrong, Smyth seems like a likeable guy with a savvy offensive game. Much has been made about how he admirably fills the net without much discernible physical skill. Those positive qualities don’t overcome the fact that he’s simply not worth $6.2 million a year, though.

Much like the Panthers with Campbell, the salary cap floor context makes the Smyth addition a bit more sensible for the Oilers (especially since his contact expires after next season, a luxury Florida will wish they had with “Soupy”). The Calgary Flames’ reported interest in Smyth ends up being the most surprising element. You would hope that new GM Jay Feaster would like to curtail the team’s tradition of wildly overpaying good-but-not-great players but his rumored interest in Smyth, excessive contract extension to ex-bargain Alex Tanguay and surprising hastiness to move Robyn Regehr’s reasonable deal really makes you wonder.

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It also makes you wonder if there is such thing as an “untradeable contact” anymore. As crazy as it might sound to rational folks out there, it seems like there will always be a GM desperate enough to think that another team’s salary cap trash could be their on-ice treasure. Those moments must be big blows to savvy fans in that market, but if nothing else, they give us interesting off-season fodder and justify the fun practice of concocting theoretical trades during a long, hockey-free summer.

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.