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).

The Buzzer: Malkin paces Penguins, Vegas keeps on winning

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Player of the night: Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.

Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.

Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.

Highlight of the night:

There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.

But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.

Factoid of the night:

The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.

Scores:

New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 4 (SO)

San Jose 5, Montreal 2

Pittsburgh 5, New York 4 (OT)

Philadelphia 5, Florida 1

Toronto 2, Washington 0

Vancouver 3, Ottawa 0

Nashville 4, Colorado 1

Columbus 5, Winnipeg 2

Dallas 3, Arizona 1

Vegas 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

Carolina 5, Edmonton 3

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Sharks send Habs to their fifth straight loss

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Make that five straight losses for the Montreal Canadiens.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist on Shea Weber‘s power play blast, giving the Habs center a two-point night. That’s one of the few bright spots, as Montreal lost by a score of 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

This was a battle of two teams struggling to start the new season, with each sitting on only one victory. For the Habs, that victory was back on Oct. 5 in their season opener against Buffalo.

Since then, however . . .

And it isn’t about to get any easier for the Habs. This was the start of a stretch that includes three games in four nights against the bruising California teams — the Sharks tonight, the Kings tomorrow, and the Ducks on Friday. It could still get worse before it gets better.

For the Sharks, who were led Tuesday by Logan Couture‘s four-point performance and Joe Pavelski‘s first goal of the season, they end their five-game home stand on a positive note after losing three of the previous four games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Wayne Simmonds leaves Flyers game for ‘precautionary reasons’ with lower-body issue

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The Philadelphia Flyers earned a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

And Philly forward Wayne Simmonds earned a decision over Micheal Haley in a quick fight during that middle frame, too.

While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.

Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.

Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.

And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.

Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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The New York Rangers needed a win.

Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

“Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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