Blue Jackets’ schedule gives them the opportunity to finish strong

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Columbus Blue Jackets schedule analysis

Total mileage: 42,831 (15th most miles in NHL and second most in the Central Division)

Back-to-back games: 16

Toughest stretches

The schedule is not kind to the Blue Jackets in January. They have a tough five game stretch that starts on New Year’s Eve against the Capitals and continues into a four game road-trip against the Sharks, Kings, Ducks, and Blackhawks. Worse yet, the three games in California will be in four nights. As if that wasn’t enough, later in the month Columbus faces their longest road trip of the season. Between January 21 and February 3, the Jackets visit six playoff teams on their six game road trip: Detroit, Nashville, Tampa Bay, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. Again, the Jackets will be faced with three games in four nights during their California swing.

Easiest periods

Usually, a team’s easiest stretch during the season would be their longest homestand. But when you’re longest homestand is only five games and features the likes of the Predators, Bruins, Canucks, Kings and Lightning—well, that’s not an easy stretch for any team. There’s a four game homestand between January 13-19 that should give Columbus an opportunity to earn a few points at home (even though there’s an odd home back-to-back situation).

But the time to watch Columbus will be the end of the season. In the early part of March, they have a home-and-home with Phoenix, a home-and-home with the Blues, and dates against the Avalanche and Oilers. Then they finish the season with games against the Panthers, Blues, Coyotes, Avs, and Islanders.

Overall outlook

All in all, the Blue Jackets have an average schedule. Their total mileage for the season is average, it’s the middle of the pack for the Central Division. Their 16 back-t0-backs sound like a lot around the NHL, but only rank them third in the Central Division.

If the Jackets can keep their head above water for the first half of the season, they’ll be in a great position to streak towards a playoff spot at the end of the season. They’ll have plenty of winnable games in the last month of the season—so if they’re in the hunt, they’ll have a chance to make up ground against any of their competitors. Of course, the trick will be to stay in the hunt when they have a few tough stretches against tough teams.

Brendan Smith still talking to Rangers, ‘trying to make it happen’

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It’s only a few days until July 1 and defenseman Brendan Smith still doesn’t have an extension in place with the New York Rangers.

Not to worry, says his agent. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Smith is going to sign elsewhere.

“No one should read anything into the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” Anton Thun told the New York Post. “You’re never really close until it’s done, but both sides are trying to make it happen. We’ll have to see.”

Thun told the Post a month ago that Smith, an unrestricted free agent, was “open” to returning to the Rangers.

But there’s also been speculation that the Blueshirts will pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency, which would probably mean less money available for Smith.

It remains to be seen if the Rangers will, indeed, make a big push for Shattenkirk. The addition of Anthony DeAngelo in the Derek Stepan trade may have lessened their urgency in that regard.

“He’s a puck-moving right-handed defenseman that can run the power play and shoot the puck,” GM Jeff Gorton said of DeAngelo, per Sporting News.

Which sounds a lot like Shattenkirk, no?

Smith, 28, was traded to the Rangers from Detroit on Feb. 28.

Sens extend McCormick — two years, $1.3 million

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Looks as though forward Max McCormick has a future in Ottawa.

On Tuesday, the Sens signed McCormick to a two-year extension worth $650,000 annually — and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a one-way deal in the second year.

McCormick, 25, also has a $250,000 guaranteed AHL salary next season.

The deal comes after he set a career high and tied for the AHL Binghamton team lead in goals last year, with 21. McCormick also appeared in seven games for Ottawa — this after playing 20 in ’15-16 — and emerged as a high-energy guy with an edge to his game.

Despite not being overly big (5-foot-11, 188 pounds), McCormick fought seven times for Binghamton last season, and led the team in penalty minutes. The year prior, he scrapped 12 times between the Sens and Baby Sens.

A spot at the NHL level could soon materialize. The Sens have already announced they’re moving on from free agent forward Chris Neil, and the futures of fellow UFAs Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels remain uncertain.

Carolina re-signs Chelios, Brown

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The ‘Canes retained some organizational depth on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with defenseman Jake Chelios — the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — and forward Patrick Brown.

Brown’s contract is a one-year, $650,000 extension, one that will pay $160,000 at the AHL level, with a guarantee of $190,000.

Brown, 25, split last season between Charlotte and Carolina, appearing in a career-high 14 contest with the ‘Canes. The Boston College product scored 12 goals and 28 points in 66 games with the Checkers.

Chelios, 26, has yet to make his NHL debut but is coming off a strong season with Charlotte. He served as an alternate captain and had a strong offensive campaign, with 32 points in 76 contests. That led all Checkers d-men in scoring, and he was the only player on the team to appear in every single game this season.

Like Brown, Chelios’ deal will pay $650,000 at the NHL level. It’s $85,000 at the AHL level.

Report: Sens tried to get Methot back from Vegas

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The Ottawa Senators did their best to make sure they didn’t lose Marc Methot in the expansion draft.

They attempted to get Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-move clause so they could keep Methot, but that didn’t work out.

On Monday, TSN hockey analyst Pierre LeBrun reported that the Golden Knights and Senators had been talking about a potential trade back to Ottawa.

In the end, Vegas GM George McPhee preferred to ship him to Dallas for 2017 seventh-rounder Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020.

According to beat reporter Bruce Garrioch, Vegas’ asking price to allow the Sens to protect Methot before expansion was a 2018 first-round pick.

Methot has averaged at least 19:49 of ice time during his five seasons in Ottawa.

In the end, all this means is that the Senators will need to find someone else to play on the top pairing with Erik Karlsson next season.

During training camp, Ottawa put top prospect Thomas Chabot with Karlsson. They opted to send Chabot back to junior, but that could be an interesting combination if they think he’s ready to be a regular in the NHL.