Jackets GM Kekalainen: ‘I really don’t care’ if Johansen was unhappy in AHL

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Yesterday, we passed along word that Ryan Johansen — Columbus’ first-round pick (fourth overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — was benched for a playoff game while with AHL Springfield.

Shortly after, Jarmo Kekalainen addressed the issue and gave insight on how he and the organization are going to handle player accountability moving forward.

“I think this is probably going to be a disappointment [to him], to say the least, maybe even a bit embarrassing,” the Jackets GM told the Columbus Dispatch. “Hopefully, he takes it the right way, gets to work this summer and shows us in the fall that he has taken it to heart and he’s ready to earn a spot on the [Blue Jackets].”

Earn a spot. Interesting word choice, considering Johansen played 40 of 48 games this year and 67 in his rookie campaign.

Kekalainen also addressed the possibility that Johansen might’ve been unhappy about his assignment to AHL Springfield, especially after playing almost the entire season with the Jackets and participating in a spirited playoff push.

“I don’t have any indication that he’d be unhappy,” Kekalainen said. “I really don’t care if he was unhappy.”

Okay then!

Johansen had just one assist and went an ugly minus-8 in the first three games of Springfield’s playoff series, and was scratched after head coach Brad Larsen ran it by Kekalainen and Jackets head coach Todd Richards.

It’s also not the first time Johansen’s received this sort of “punishment” from the organization — in early February, he was demoted to Springfield after Richards said his game went downhill.

There are two ways to look at this, really. The first is that it’s an example of how Columbus is going to operate under the new regime of Kekalainen and John Davidson — players are going to be held to a higher standard than ever before.

But there’s another angle to this, and it’s the organization’s history with handling young prospects. Derick Brassard’s time in Columbus was littered with “disciplinary” moments (see here and here and here) before he was jettisoned to New York in the Marian Gaborik trade.

There was also the Nikita Filatov disaster, though that was hardly all on the Jackets.

It’ll be interesting to see how Johansen reacts not just to this latest setback, but the new organizational mandate overall.

And, how the rest of Columbus’ young players will react as well.

Report: Oilers and potential UFA Maroon talking extension

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The Edmonton Oilers and forward Patrick Maroon are reportedly discussing an extension, according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.

Maroon spent a good chunk of the season playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and it showed in his numbers.

The 29-year-old scored a career-high 27 goals (he had never scored more than 11 goals in a season) and 42 points in 81 contests.

Maroon is in the final year of a three-year contract that came with an annual average value of $2 million. You’d have to think that he’s in line for a raise.

“Obviously without those two I wouldn’t have the success I did, but sometimes you’ve got to give yourself some credit too,” Maroon said earlier this month, per NHL.com. “Those two are very tremendous players, and for me I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing to stay with them.

“Obviously [Oilers coach] Todd McLellan had a really big part in that. He gave me an opportunity to play with those two. For me, I’ve just got to continue what I did last year, come [to training camp] in really good shape again, and hopefully good things fall into place again.”

‘We’ve got to get that out of his game’: Trotz wants Ovechkin to cut down on slashing penalties

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As you may have noticed, the NHL is trying to crack down on players cheating on faceoffs and stick infractions.

The first week of the preseason has been nothing more than teams getting a good look at their power play units because players still aren’t used to the way officials are calling the game.

One of the players that has to adapt to the officiating is Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who took two slashing penalties against Montreal on Wednesday night.

“Too many slashing penalties,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Ovi took two. We’ve got to get that out of his game.”

Like all players, it’s something the Capitals captain will have to get used to before the regular season begins. But let’s be honest, there’s a good chance that these officials won’t be as strict on the stick or face-off infractions as the regular season goes on.

Ovechkin isn’t the only star player that’s having an issue adapting to some of these stricter on-ice policies. Earlier in this week, Bruins forward Brad Marchand ripped the new face-off rule.

“This faceoff rule’s an absolute joke,” Marchand said. “That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play this year like that. That’s brutal.”

We’ll see if the league actually sticks to its guns here. If they do, how long will it take the players to adjust?

Housley focused on making Sabres ‘an aggressive team’

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The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been a playoff team in quite some time, but the organization is hoping that their major offseason changes will help them take a few steps in the right direction.

One of those major changes came behind the bench, as the team hired Predators assistant Phil Housley to be their head coach.

Housley did some terrific work with defensemen like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban last season. A big part of Nashville’s attack came from defenders pushing the pace from the back.

“We want to be an aggressive team,” Housley said, per NHL.com. “I think everybody we’ve talked about playing aggressive offensively but we need to play aggressive defensively. I think defense gives you a chance to win every night and they’ll understand that we want to be fast and aggressive. The days are gone when a guy wants to make a breakout pass and the [defense] just watched the rush go up and play; they have to get up in the play not only to maybe join the rush and add to the attack, but to be in the offensive zone, being able to keep pucks in, or else you’re going to start playing defense.”

The Sabres could use an offensive boost from their defense (or anyone really). Last season, Jack Eichel collected 57 points in 61 games, which comes out to an impressive 0.934 points-per-game. But Unfortunately for the Sabres, no player topped 60 points in 2016-17.

Buffalo changed the look of their defense during the summer, as they acquired Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal and Marco Scandella from Minnesota. Both guys are capable of moving the puck, which should help Housley execute his plan.

Also, it’ll be interesting to see if Housley can take Rasmus Ristolainen‘s game to the next level. The 22-year-old has surpassed the 40-point mark in each of the last two seasons. He’s also served as the big-minute guy on the Sabres blue line.

“We’re here to learn from him and pick his brain, he was a [heck] of a player in his day,” defender Zach Bogosian said. “He gets the game. He’s played for a while, he’s coached for a while, he’s been around forever.

“Guys are looking forward to playing that style.”

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.