Blue Jackets keep paying big, avoid arbitration with Marc Methot for 4-years, $12M

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For years, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been wallflowers as the Western Conference playoff dances came into full swing. Even in their one appearance on the dance floor, they didn’t earn a single win and essentially did their Carlton impression during an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings.

The Blue Jackets haven’t been shy during this 2011 off-season, however. To extend the high school dance metaphor, GM Scott Howson spiked the punch (signing James Wisniewski to a risky deal) then forced a dance with a cheerleader (trading for Jeff Carter) much to the chagrin of a potential future sweetheart (Howson traded a first round pick that ended up being Sean Couturier in the Carter deal). Who knows if these gambles will improve Columbus enough for them to become a genuine contender, but their days of being the anonymous dude in the corner are probably over.

Marc Methot isn’t the type of name to move tickets or stop hearts, but he played a big role on the Blue Jackets’ beleaguered blueline the last two seasons (19+ minutes per game each year) and was headed for what might have been a reasonably lucrative salary arbitration hearing. That won’t end up happening, though, as he agreed to a hefty four-year, $12 million deal today. Here are some details about the contract and the negotiation process between the two sides via Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch.

Methot, a restricted free agent, had filed for salary arbitration with the NHL by today’s 5 p.m. deadline, but that was strictly a procedural move. He made it clear to his agent, Larry Kelly, that he wanted to get a deal done quickly.

The deal will pay Methot $2.25 million this season, followed by $2.75 million in 2012-13, $3.25 million in 2013-14 and $3.75 million in 2014-15. He could have been an unrestricted free agent next summer.

“This is where I want to be and where I want to play,” Methot said. “I’m comfortable here. I’m excited about where this team is headed, and I really wanted to make sure I was a part of that. I’ve made a lot of friends in Columbus, even outside of the hockey world.

“Giving up the free agency years was pretty easy for me, because I know where I want to be.”

My initial reaction to the deal probably matched a lot of other peoples’ feelings: “Yuck.” That being said, his annual salary isn’t that far out of line with players of his ilk. He’s the hockey equivalent of an “innings eating pitcher,” a guy who won’t wow you but can play a lot of minutes and be reasonably responsible in his own end.

Blue Jackets blog The Cannon described his better-than-expected impact on the team’s 2010-11 season.

Marc Methot turned out to be a surprising gem under Scott Arniel, logging 20 minutes a night (and averaging more time on the PK than any d-man except Klesla) and frequently laid his body on the line at both ends of the ice. Methot lead the Jackets’ D-corps with 176 hits, and came in fourth in blocked shots with 98. Though he was the only d-man not to score a goal, he was also the only d-man who saw virtually no time on the power play – a bit surprising when you think of how many combinations Scott Arniel went through trying to find a winning formula.

Though he had his share of bad plays and gaffes, he was still one of only four Jackets’ d-men to finish with a positive +/- rating (and the only one who played in Columbus the entire season). Interestingly, over half of his PIMs this year came against Chicago and St. Louis, including both of his fighting majors this season. Think he’s bought into the rivalry?

If nothing else, the Blue Jackets are clearly buying into him (and their ability to actually become serious rivals to the Blackhawks, Blues and any other number of NHL teams).

It’s Pittsburgh Penguins day at PHT

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The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first team since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions last season.

After a summer of painful (if necessary) losses, the Penguins now aim to become the first NHL team to “three-peat” since the New York Islanders rattled off a dizzying four consecutive championships from 1980-83.

Just yesterday, Matt Cullen became the latest omission from the Penguins’ mix, but he was far from the only noteworthy loss. Marc-Andre Fleury headlines a list of exits that also includes Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey.

Their additions have been a mix of small (Matt Hunwick) and polarizing (giving up a first-rounder for Ryan Reaves), so overall this team saw some minuses this summer.

That said, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Penguins navigated the choppy waters of the postseason despite plenty of bruises, especially with Kris Letang out for the entire 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. One could argue that a healthy Letang cancels out most of the Penguins’ losses.

(You know, not that this franchise isn’t accustomed to seeing Letang, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin miss significant time almost every year.)

It’s been a remarkable run, as the Penguins have been on fire ever since Mike Sullivan took over. Phil Kessel‘s been a brilliant addition, even with the hot dog jokes and surprising trade rumors.

Matt Murray‘s also been a revelation, although the 2017-18 season presents an intriguing test for a goalie who has enjoyed a Ken Dryden-like start to his career. With “The Flower” out of town, more rests on Murray, a goalie who’s passed all of his tests with flying colors so far, but hasn’t ever carried a franchise netminder’s workload.

There’s a lot to like when it comes to the Penguins next season, who even with some tough losses, retain the vast majority of their key contributors. Will they run out of gas after two championship runs, not to mention some key players getting older? Can they continue to generate great results in a challenging Metropolitan Division?

PHT explores the defending champions’ burning questions today.

Draisaitl on signing with Oilers: ‘We have something really special’

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As a restricted free agent, Leon Draisaitl only had so much say regarding his future with the Edmonton Oilers, especially since teams rarely send offer sheets around in the NHL.

Even so, Draisaitl could have opted for a “bridge” deal; instead, he signed for the maximum of eight years for a whopping $68 million on Wednesday.

Some would probably grumble but understand if Draisaitl explained his rational by pointing at one of those big checks or at a calculator. Instead, the promising young forward explained that he believes that the Oilers have a bright future, and he wants to be a part of it.

In case you’re wondering, additional details have surfaced regarding the year-to-year breakdown of Draisaitl’s deal. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie also reports that Draisaitl has a no-movement clause, thus making it that much more likely that he’ll get his wish to stick with the Oilers:

Of course, with Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combining for a $21M cap hit beginning in 2018-19, the bigger question is not whether they will stay, but who the Oilers will manage to keep in the fold.

Still, that’s for GM Peter Chiarelli & Co. to decide. For Draisaitl, this is a great moment, and he might even be able to back up that big contract with big results on the ice.

Cullen explains why he chose Wild over Penguins

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If you check out a bio on Matt Cullen, you’ll notice that he’s from Minnesota. It doesn’t take a leak, then, to explain why Cullen signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

As Cullen explained to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “this is a family decision.” As he goes deeper into his logic, even especially sore Pittsburgh Penguins fans should probably understand Cullen’s perspective.

“Minnesota is home and it’s a special place for me,” Cullen said. “It’s not easy to say goodbye and it’s not easy to walk away [from Pittsburgh]. I’m confident in the decision we’re making and it’s the right thing for our family. But at the same time, it’s not an easy one.

Now, to be fair, Cullen also told Russo that he believes the Wild are a “hungry” team that might have been the West’s best in 2016-17. It’s not like he’s roughing it, and surely the $1 million (and $700K in performance bonuses that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hopes Cullen collects) didn’t hurt, either.

Still, such a decision makes extra sense for a 40-year-old who’s played for eight different NHL teams during his impressive career. Russo’s story about Cullen attending his kids games and seeing his brothers is worth a read just for those warm and fuzzy feelings we often forget about in crunching the numbers and pondering which teams might be big-time contenders in 2017-18.

This isn’t to say that getting a fourth Stanley Cup ring wouldn’t be appealing to Cullen, but perhaps he’ll get his family time and win big, too?

There’s also the familiarity that comes with playing three fairly recent seasons with the Wild, so Cullen’s choice seems like it checks a lot of the boxes.

In other positive Wild news, Russo reports that Eric Staal is feeling 100 percent after suffering a concussion during the playoffs.

Tuesday was Wild day at PHT, but perhaps this feels more like Wild week?

Bovada gives McDavid higher odds than Crosby to win Hart in 2017-18

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In handing Connor McDavid an eight-year, $100 million extension, the Edmonton Oilers essentially are paying the 20-year-old star based on the assumption that he’ll provide MVP-quality play.

At least one Vegas oddsmaker agrees, as Bovada tabbed McDavid as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, edging Sidney Crosby.

That’s interesting, yet it might be even more interesting to note where other players fall in the rankings. Auston Matthews coming in third is particularly intriguing.

Who are some of the more interesting choices? The 20/1 range seems appealing, as Carey Price is one of the few goalies with the notoriety to push for such honors while John Tavares has the skill and financial motivation to produce the best work of his career next season.

Anyway, entertain yourself with those odds, via Bovada: (Quick note: Bovada originally had Artemi Panarin listed as still playing with Chicago. PHT went ahead and fixed that in the bit below.)

2017 – 2018 – Who will win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player?
Connor McDavid (EDM)                         3/2
Sidney Crosby (PIT)                              5/2
Auston Matthews (TOR)                         17/2
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                            9/1
Patrick Kane (CHI)                                 14/1
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)                       15/1
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)                                16/1
Carey Price (MON)                                 20/1
John Tavares (NYI)                                20/1
Jamie Benn (DAL)                                 25/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                             25/1
Erik Karlsson (OTT)                               33/1
Nikita Kucherov (TB)                              33/1
Jack Eichel (BUF)                                  50/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                               50/1
Patrik Laine (WPG)                                50/1
Brad Marchand (BOS)                            50/1
Tyler Seguin (DAL)                                50/1
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS)                      60/1
Brent Burns (SJ)                                    60/1
Braden Holtby (WAS)                            60/1
Phil Kessel (PIT)                                    60/1
Artemi Panarin (CBJ)                              60/1
Joe Pavelski (SJ)                                  60/1