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.

PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)

–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)

–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)

Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.