R.J. Umberger

Blue Jackets give R.J. Umberger a surprising five-year, $23M extension

For a franchise with zero playoff wins and one postseason appearance in its history, the Columbus Blue Jackets are showing a lot of urgency in keeping the band together. If GM Scott Howson’s job depends on this season’s results as many expect, then his current run of moves would handcuff a hypothetical incoming general manager anyway.

R.J. Umberger is the latest example of keeping more than just the core together, as Howson handed him a surprising five-year, $23 million extension today. The former Philadelphia Flyers forward will register a $4.6 million annual cap hit starting next season. Aaron Portzline reports that the first two seasons (2012-13 and 13-14) include a no-trade clause while the final three carry a modified one.

The salary breakdown is simple:

2012-13: $5 million
Four other seasons: $4.5 million

The Blue Jackets’ roster is now riddled with long-term contracts – and it’s not just obvious players such as franchise winger Rick Nash and newly acquired center Jeff Carter. Here’s a quick look at the team’s big commitments, with their salary cap hits and the season that their contracts expire.

Nash: $7.8 million cap hit, expires 2017-18
Carter: $5.27M, 21-22
Umberger: $4.7M, 16-17
Antoine Vermette: $3.75M, 14-15
James Wisniewski: $5.5M, 16-17
Marc Methot: $3M, 14-15
Fedor Tyutin: $2.84M, 17-18

There are some reasonable values in that grouping – and it’s not as if there is nothing to like about Umberger’s game – but it’s still a risky plan for a team that hasn’t proven anything. On the bright side, the 29-year-old forward is a consistent producer (three straight seasons of 23 goals or more, with two consecutive campaigns of 55+ points) and he can play at both center and wing.

The thing is, when you hand a guy a lengthy deal (and no-trade clause) at that price, there’s probably an expectation for even better things. I’m not sure how much more the Blue Jackets can expect from Umberger, so why couldn’t they get a better bargain for him in exchange for the considerable amount of security he just gained?

Honestly, it’s a head-scratching decision, but it at least accomplishes the task of showing the team’s confidence in their current setup. We’ll find out soon enough if that confidence is justified or ill-advised.

Kings, NHLPA announce settlement in Richards grievance

Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers

The Los Angeles Kings announced today that they have “reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his NHL Standard Players Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties.”

The club said that it will not be commenting further “on the terms” of the settlement.

The NHLPA released a similar statement.

It was reported earlier in the week that a settlement was close to being reached; however, it wasn’t clear what salary-cap penalties the Kings would incur.

We’re starting to find out some details now:

How the final numbers differ from what the Kings would have incurred if they’d bought Richards out will be interesting to see. And if there are differences, how will they be justified?

Stay tuned.

Report: Ex-NHLer Aaron Ward arrested for ‘assault on a female’ (Updated)

Brad May, Kevin Hodson, Jiri Fischer, Aaron Ward

Aaron Ward, a 16-year NHL veteran that appeared in over 800 career games, has been arrested for “assault on a female,” per WNCN.

Ward was arrested on Friday in Cary, North Carolina and also charged with interfering with emergency communication, according to the report.

Currently working as an analyst for TSN, Ward spent five years of his career in Carolina, helping the ‘Canes capture the Stanley Cup in 2006.

Update: Per WRAL, Ward’s wife called 9-1-1 after the two had a confrontation around 1 p.m. ET. Police confirmed Ward was arrested at his home in Cary.

According to the warrant for his arrest, he took away his wife’s phone.

Because of the nature of his charges, Ward will spend a mandatory 48 hours in the Wake County jail. Anyone arrested on a domestic violence charge is held for 48 hours before bail is set.

And here’s a statement from TSN: