Jarret Stoll
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Veteran center Stoll to attend Blue Jackets training camp on a PTO

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The Columbus Blue Jackets will have veteran center Jarret Stoll at training camp on a professional tryout, the club announced Tuesday.

Stoll, 34, is approaching 900 career regular season games played in the NHL. He split last season between the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, with a total of four goals and nine points recorded in 2015-16.

He was waived by the Rangers in December and claimed the following day by the Wild, as that club looked to add depth up the middle heading into the second half of the season.

Stoll’s most productive days, offensively, are well behind him. But he is still capable in the faceoff circle, winning almost 57 per cent of his draws in his 51 games with Minnesota.

The Blue Jackets have made a couple of moves this summer in addressing the center position.

At the beginning of this month, the Blue Jackets dipped into the secondary free agent market to land Sam Gagner — a right-shot center — on a one-year contract.

They also drafted Pierre-Luc Dubois at third overall.

Dubois believes he can play up the middle as a true first-line center, which, as per the discussion for months now, is a position the club needed to focus on after dealing Ryan Johansen last season.

Related:

After plenty of ‘disappointment’ last season, Torts hopes to lead Jackets back to the playoffs

It’s Columbus Blue Jackets day at PHT

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  Seth Jones #3 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on March 31, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Blkue Jackets 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Much like last summer, the Columbus Blue Jackets are coming off of a disappointing season where they failed to make the playoffs.

While they seemed to swagger through the 2015 summer, particularly in going big to get Brandon Saad, the atmosphere has been pretty meek for Columbus.

How could you puff your chest out after spending quite a lot of money only to finish second-to-last in the East?

Sergei Bobrovsky dealt with injury issues again – to the point that the team hired a specialist to try to fix him and others – but Columbus didn’t have the same health-related excuses in 2015-16 as they did in 2014-15.

Off-season recap

This past regular season brought about an off-season’s worth of big moves, with John Tortorella becoming their new head coach and Seth Jones replacing Ryan Johansen as one of the faces of the franchise.

For better or most likely worse, the Blue Jackets are largely stuck with the group they assembled heading into last season. (Seriously, that salary structure is scary.)

It’s difficult to get too excited about this group heading into next season, from their fragile goalie to a forward group that lacks a first-line center.

The team did make waves with one off-season move, mind you, surprising many when their Finnish GM didn’t take a highly touted Finnish prospect. Instead, Jarmo Kekalainen selected Pierre-Luc Dubois, a decision that will be revisited for years to come.

So, there are a lot of negatives, but it’s not outrageous to imagine this team making big gains, possibly even grabbing a playoff spot.

Bobrovsky’s had health issues, yet he’s still a guy who can make a difference. There are nice young pieces in Jones, Saad, Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner.

Today we explore the many facets of a team hoping to turn things around after some tumultuous times.

It’s official: Blue Jackets add Sam Gagner on one-year contract

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on before a face off against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets attempted to add some scoring depth to their lineup on Monday morning when they officially announced the signing of free agent forward Sam Gagner on a one-year contract.

The team did not release the financial terms of the deal, but according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch it is worth $650,000.

“Sam has scored 350 points and played in 600 games in the NHL and is still a young player who can be a solid contributor on our team,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. “He is a talented, right-handed shot center who will add to our skill and depth at that position.”

It is a low-risk deal that makes a great deal of sense for the Blue Jackets. Even though Gagner never really became a top-line player in the NHL after being the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft, he still has a lot of offensive ability and until this past season has been a steady 40-point scorer in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes. That is second-line production in today’s NHL. His production did drop off significantly this past season in a greatly reduced role as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers where he managed just eight goals and eight assists in 53 games. He also spent some time in the AHL playing for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms during the season.

The Blue Jackets have quite a few big-money contracts going to aging players on their payroll that have pushed them toward the NHL’s salary cap, so adding to a roster that finished with the fourth-worst record in the league this past season and was 19th in goals scored was going to be difficult.

Gagner is, at the very least, a nice bounceback candidate on a contract that carries almost no risk.

The best-case scenario here is they get a potential second-line scorer for almost nothing against the cap. And if it doesn’t work out, they are only out one year $650,000. It is a gamble worth taking.

 

 

Report: Blue Jackets on the verge of signing Sam Gagner

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on before a face off against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It sounds like Sam Gagner may determine his destination for 2015-16 in the near future.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets are close to signing Gagner to a one-year, one-way deal. Such an agreement might not be made official until Monday, according to Portzline.

After a bumpy season with the Philadelphia Flyers in which he spent some time in the AHL, Gagner must especially appreciate the one-way nature of his next contract.

The Blue Jackets aren’t the only team interested in the 26-year-old, as his name was also connected to the Vancouver Canucks:

It looks like the still-quite-young scorer will get a clean slate after bouncing around and being defined by a bloated contract originally signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

Remember when he broke one of Wayne Gretzky’s records during an eight-point night?

Gagner’s presence could make life easier for the likes of Boone Jenner:

It’s conceivable that Gagner could enjoy a nice rebound season if used in a specialized, protected role. The Blue Jackets may very well be the right fit.

… And on the other hand, the deficits in Gagner’s all-around game could at least provide some John Tortorella rage and entertainment.

Everyone wins.

Fixing Bob: Blue Jackets seem confident in new consultant

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is taken off the ice in front of Sergei Bobrovsky #72 with a stretcher during the third period of a 5-2 King's win at Staples Center on October 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Sure, the Columbus Blue Jackets stemmed some of the injury tide last season after a ridiculous run in 2014-15.

Even so, their most expensive player still can’t seem to stay healthy. Is there anyway to “fix” Sergei Bobrovsky after years of frequent groin injuries?

The Blue Jackets seem confident that consultant Nelson Ayotte can bridge the gap between the team’s medical staff and those responsible for strength and conditioning concerns, as GM Jarmo Kekalainen noted to the Columbus Dispatch.

“Nelson’s going to be evaluating and improving everything, right away,” Kekalainen said. “His impact is going to be felt right away. He’s coming in as a consultant, and Kevin is staying onboard. Together they’re going to improve everybody’s output, not just strength and conditioning but overall performance.”

Ayotte’s referred to as a “high-performance coach.” The role is being sold as a way to improve the way staff works instead of standing as a replacement.

As much as this is about improving the inner-workings of the staff, let’s be honest; the team specifically wants to get more out of their seemingly fragile $7.425 million goalie.

In that regard, Kekalainen said he wants Ayotte and Bobrovsky to get acquainted in “short order.”

Groin injuries rank among the trickier issues – how exactly do you avoid recurring problems there? – but credit Columbus for going the extra mile to try to turn things around.

For more background on Bobrovsky’s issues and how athletes recover from groin injuries, check out this Columbus Dispatch article from February.