Bryan Little won’t wear number 10 in Winnipeg because of Dale Hawerchuk

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When the Winnipeg Jets came to be once again this summer when True North Sports and Entertainment bought the Atlanta Thrashers, one of the tricky things they had to find a way to deal with was the history of the old Jets. After all, those Jets belong to the Phoenix Coyotes and these new Jets have the history of the Thrashers.

True North found a good way to handle the history of the old Jets by saying they’d treat past numbers of Jets history the way the Maple Leafs do and honor those that wore them rather than retire the numbers once again for players who never had a lick of history with the Thrashers. In spite of doing things that way, it’s not going to keep current Jets forward Bryan Little from doing what he calls, “the right thing.”

Little wore number 10 for the Thrashers, a number that Dale Hawerchuk made famous while playing for the original Jets in the 1980s. The Coyotes retired Hawerchuk’s number in 2007 to honor the former franchise great and even though Hawerchuk never played a game for the Coyotes, the team honored his legacy by hanging his number in the rafters. With that recognition made, Little says that’s enough to keep him from donning the number again in Winnipeg.

Little has asked the team to switch his number from 10 to 18 and so at least to start their stay in Winnipeg, it appears the Jets will have nobody wearing former superstar Dale Hawerchuk’s vaunted No. 10.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot since the name came out, that the team was going to be the Jets again,” Little told the Free Press recently. “And even though the team told me what they were thinking and said publicly they wouldn’t retire old numbers, well, I just think this is the right thing to do.”

The new franchise here isn’t forcing decisions on anyone.

It’s a respectful move by Little but one that helps bring more of the focus on the decision on the owners to call the team the Jets. With the awkward intermingling of the team name being the same but the histories being different, these sorts of things have come up. Evander Kane is going to keep his number 9 even though that belonged to Bobby Hull during his Winnipeg days.

As for Little, he understands that the situations with the current Jets and the former Jets are different.

“Me, I think it would be weird wearing 10 and playing for the Winnipeg Jets,” Little said. “Even though we’re not that organization today (the relocated Jets of 1979-1996 are in Phoenix), I think it still would have felt weird.

“And I have seen already how much the fans there have cherished Jets history. So I’m going to be switching to 18.”

You can respect Little’s take on things here and things with the Jets right off the bat like this are going to be a little bit awkward. Besides, it’s nice to see a young guy in the NHL with enough sense of history to want to go out of his way to honor and respect it. When you hear stories in other leagues about how players look into approaching past greats to wear their number again (think of Barry Bonds wanting to ask Willie Mays to wear 24 with the San Francisco Giants and ultimately opting not to) it makes you appreciate what Little is doing… But it really isn’t necessary in this case.

These are different teams with different histories and should be treated as such by everyone, especially the fans. We know that showing up to games in Winnipeg with a retro Jets sweater on is going to happen, but comparing the new Jets to the old ones is foolish for more than a few reasons. At least these Jets should try to do something the old Jets never had good luck with: Winning.

Report: Red Wings RFA Athanasiou could sign in Russia

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With training camp approaching, Andreas Athanasiou is still without a contract for the upcoming season.

The 23-year-old forward and restricted free agent posted 18 goals and 29 points in 64 games for the Detroit Red Wings last season in the final year of his entry-level contract with an annual average value of $902,500.

Based on a report Tuesday afternoon, traveling overseas to play next season could be an option for Athanasiou, one of the bright young forwards in the Red Wings organization.

Earlier this month, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said the organization has made a “number of offers” to Athanasiou.

One of the issues facing Detroit right now is the salary cap, which the Red Wings are currently over by almost $4 million, according to CapFriendly.

Report: ‘We … are not dealing with this issue as of now,’ says Iginla’s agent of Olympics

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National Hockey League players will not be going to the 2018 Olympics. However, it appears Team Canada has taken another step in expressing interest in a pair of unrestricted free agents — Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.

That’s according to the Canadian Press on Tuesday, as it reported Team Canada general manager Sean Burke contacted representatives for both Doan and Iginla, inquiring about possible availability.

Both players are 40 years old and have represented Canada at previous Olympics when NHL players participated. Iginla set up Sidney Crosby‘s famous overtime winning goal during the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

From the Canadian Press:

Burke, who’s building the first Canadian Olympic roster without NHL players since 1994, suggested that both former Olympians would have to be playing somewhere if they were to be considered. He reached out to their representatives on Tuesday morning.

“We want to look at all possibilities, but there has to be a long-term plan because it’s going to very intense (at the Olympics) and it’s going to be great hockey and guys are going to have to have a plan for the year,” Burke said on a conference call, which also included the team’s head coach Willie Desjardins.

Whether or not the two veterans would be interested is another question.

“We really are not dealing with this issue as of now,” Don Meehan, Iginla’s agent, said in an email to The Canadian Press.

The report also indicated that Team Canada’s roster should become more clear by November.

Doan played his entire career with one franchise until this June, when Coyotes management informed the veteran forward that they would not be bringing him back for another season. He’s appeared in 1,540 NHL games throughout his career, but scored only six goals and 27 points in 74 games this past season.

Iginla, a two-time Olympic champion for Canada, split this season between Colorado and L.A. He had only eight goals and 18 points in 61 games with the Avalanche before getting dealt to the Kings. He then posted six goals and nine points in 19 games with L.A., although that club missed the playoffs.

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.