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In ‘unforgiving’ NHL, Tortorella demands more of Blue Jackets

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Last summer, John Tortorella ruffled some feathers – and maybe lit some fires – in sending a letter demanding that Columbus Blue Jackets come to training camp ready to go.

Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt captured the mood during the Blue Jackets’ tremendous winning streak:

The letters arrived by mail, an old method from an old soul. Postmarked from Blue Jackets headquarters and individually addressed to each player, the single-typed page bluntly spelled out the road ahead. It was late July 2016, roughly one month before training camp began. “Usually you’re not talking hockey that early in the summer,” Foligno says, “but guys started calling each other, asking, ‘Did you get the letter?’ It sparked everyone.” The gist of the message? As Atkinson remembers: “You better f—ing come ready to rock and roll.”

Apparently this off-season’s version of that “rock and roll” letter went out on July 1, as Alison Lukan of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ website reports. Tortorella said that it’s “direct and to the point,” making it clear that he didn’t prompt players to go from “rock and roll” to, say, jazz.

Could it be too much? After all, an 82 regular-season games and some (potentially scarring) playoff matches can take a lot of a player.

Tortorella’s logic is reasonable, though: you can’t just relax. If you do, other teams might leave you behind.

“The league is so unforgiving,” Tortorella said. “If you’re not staying on top of things and staying current and always trying to improve as a leader, as a Blue Jacket, and as a team, you get stuck in the mud.

“We’ve just laid a little bit of the groundwork, we have a little bit of a foundation, now we have to continue to grow as an organization and as a team.”

And, before you accuse Tortorella of merely being a drill sergeant who can’t change, note his Jack Adams run last season.

Now, there’s the joke out there that Sergei Bobrovsky essentially “won” the Jack Adams for Torts, yet he got a lot out of a team that came into 2016-17 as a popular pick to finish with the league’s best draft lottery odds. Instead, he was often forward-thinking; the Blue Jackets even constructed a power play – enhanced by unexpected weapon Sam Gagner – that confounded the NHL for a significant chunk of the season.

In other words, Tortorella seems willing to innovate and keep up with a league that is “so unforgiving.” Such a thought makes it easier to accept that the coach, himself, can be a bit unforgiving, too.

So long, Scotty — Blue Jackets buy out Hartnell

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have bought out Scott Hartnell.

The 35-year-old winger now becomes an unrestricted free agent. He had two years left on his contract.

For the Jackets, the buyout will cost them a $1.5 million cap hit this coming season, a $3 million hit the following season, and consecutive $1.25 million hits in the two seasons after that.

“On behalf of our organization, I want to thank Scott for his contributions to the Blue Jackets over the past three seasons and wish him well in the future,” said GM Jarko Kekalainen in a release. “Moves like this are never easy, but with our current organizational depth at the position it is something we believe is in the best interest of our club moving forward.”

Hartnell had just 13 goals in 78 games this past season. It was a frustrating campaign for multiple reasons, including ongoing trade rumors and an average ice time that fell to a mere 12:04.

Not surprisingly, there was tension between the veteran winger and head coach John Tortorella.

“I’m sure he gets frustrated with me sometimes, but this is the evolution of a team,” Tortorella said in March, per the Columbus Dispatch. “I don’t coach one guy. I have to coach them all. He’s been outstanding as far as how he’s handled it.”

Hartnell was traded to Columbus from Philadelphia in June of 2014. He has 314 career goals in 1,187 regular-season games in the NHL.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

Wild trades center Jordan Schroeder to Blue Jackets

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired center Jordan Schroeder in a trade with the Minnesota Wild.

In exchange for the 26-year-old Schroeder, the Wild on Friday got minor-league center Dante Salituro.

Schroeder played in 37 games for the Wild last season, recording six goals and seven assists. He has 17 goals and 23 assists in 144 career NHL games with the Wild and Vancouver Canucks since making his NHL debut in 2012-13.

It was the second trade of the day announced by the Blue Jackets. They also got forward Artemi Panarin, minor-league forward Tyler Motte, a draft pick for forward Brandon Saad, minor-league goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 draft pick.

Blackhawks re-acquire Saad, send Panarin to Blue Jackets

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Stan Bowman has made good on his promise for big changes in Chicago.

Just minutes after sending longtime defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, Bowman got the band back together by re-acquiring former ‘Hawk Brandon Saad, who he traded to Columbus two years ago.

Per Sportsnet, the Blue Jackets will receive Artemi Panarin in exchange. Right now it’s unclear if any other pieces are involved in the deal, though earlier the ‘Hawks were reportedly looking to move up to the No. 7 pick in tonight’s draft, a pick Arizona currently holds.

UPDATE: Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Chicago will also get goalie Anton Forsberg and Columbus’ fifth-round pick in 2018. Columbus will get Tyler Motte and Chicago’s sixth-round pick this year.

Saad left Chicago shortly after the 2015 Stanley Cup win, in a deal that landed the ‘Hawks Artem Aninisov and a handful of others. The 24-year-old has since gone on to score 31 and 24 goals in his two years with the Blue Jackets.

Immediately after Saad left, Panarin joined the ‘Hawks and immediately stepped in as a frontline contributor. He’s posted back-to-back 30-goal campaigns — capturing the Calder as the NHL’s top rookie in 2016 — and has been a dynamic offensive player, often alongside Patrick Kane.

As for the money involved, both carry identical $6 million hits. Big difference is that Saad’s locked in through 2021, whereas Panarin is eligible to be a UFA in 2019. So there’s certainly more cost certainty for Bowman with this trade.

More to follow…