With a rather large pool of unsigned veteran players to choose from, the Blue Jackets have opted to increase the competition in their training camp. To that end, Columbus announced that forwards James Sheppard and Antti Pihlstrom have been extended professional tryout offers.
Sheppard is coming off of a one-year, $1.3 million deal for the 2014-15 campaign. He started the season with San Jose, but was dealt to the Rangers on March 1 in exchange for a 2016 fourth round pick. He finished the season with seven goals and 18 points in 71 contests.
The 27-year-old is a veteran of 394 games and has recorded 91 points and 192 penalty minutes over that span.
Pihlstrom is a different case as the 30-year-old hasn’t played in the NHL since 2008-09. Instead he’s spent parts of the last four campaigns in the KHL. He had 16 goals and 28 points in 60 contests with Ufa Salavat Yulayev last season.
Columbus only has 11 forwards inked to one-way contracts, but that doesn’t include Alexander Wennberg or Boone Jenner. When those two are factored in, it’s hard to see Sheppard or Pihlstrom making Columbus’ opening game roster unless there’s an injury.
Assuming Artem Anisimov can stay healthy, the 27-year-old should make a fine replacement for Brad Richards at the second-line center spot in Chicago.
It’s the other player that came to the Blackhawks in yesterday’s surprising Brandon Saad trade that’s a bit of a wildcard.
Forward Marko Dano is only 20 years old. The 27th overall pick in 2013, he has just 35 NHL games, with eight goals, to his name.
“He’s an exciting player,” Chicago GM Stan Bowman said, per NHL.com. “He came on to the scene with Columbus last year with maybe not a lot of fanfare, but I think he impressed people. He certainly impressed our scouts with his all-around game. I think when you look at the potential for [Anisimov and Dano] for years to come, we’re very excited to have a [center] and a winger. Those are the main points of the trade.”
Dano, playing on a line with Alexander Wennberg and Scott Hartnell, finished 2014-15 with 15 points in the Jackets’ final 18 games.
“He’s playing big, playing strong, physical in the corners and physical in the battles,” coach Todd Richards said in March, per FOX Sports Ohio. “There’s a lot of skill and ability in him.”
Sure, the Blackhawks would’ve preferred to keep Saad “for years to come.” But the salary cap forced Bowman to make a tough decision, in the pursuit of flexibility.
“We’ve got a lot of options we can pursue now,” the GM said. “It’s too early to tell what we’re going to do, but I would say everything is a possibility going forward.”
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will have forwards Boone Jenner and Jeremy Morin in the lineup tonight when they visit the Calgary Flames this afternoon.
The news isn’t as good for center Alexander Wennberg.
Wennberg arrived at the team’s practice in Vancouver on Friday with a swollen, infected hand and was told to remain in Vancouver as the team travelled to Calgary.
The 20-year-old has three goals and 16 points in 61 games this season with the Jackets.
According Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Jackets’ coach Todd Richards said Wennberg suffered a cut recently that required stitches, and the wound has become infected.
Jenner, who has six goals and six assists in 20 games this season, has missed 40 games due to a stress fracture in his back.
Morin, 23, missed 25 games due to an upper body injury. He has a goal and three points in 17 games with Columbus this season.
In a separate transaction the club reassigned Ryan Craig to the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons.
Columbus won its only other meeting with Calgary 3-2 on Oct. 17.
The Flames enter Saturday’s action with a one-point lead on the L.A. Kings for the third seed in the Pacific Division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled forwards Michael Chaput and Kerby Rychel from the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons the club announced Saturday.
Columbus also assigned center Alexander Wennberg to Springfield.
Rychel, 20, has six goals and 13 points in 22 games during his rookie season in the AHL. The California native was the Jackets’ first round pick, 19th overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Chaput, 22, has two assists in 18 games with the Blue Jackets this season and added one goal and five points in five games with Springfield.
Columbus will be in tough to snap its’ five game losing skid when they visit the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators. With their 5-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night the Jackets dropped to 6-14-2 – the worst record in the NHL.
Sure, they’re still enduring setbacks, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are getting some key players back tonight and could see more return soon. The team announced that top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artem Anisimov will play against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Head coach Todd Richards announced that Anisimov is expected to center a like with Alexander Wennberg and Adam Cracknell.
Columbus could crawl even closer to full strength (or at least “normal health for an NHL team enduring the rigors of an 82-game season”) on Tuesday. Richards said that Jack Skille and Matt Calvert at least have a chance to play then. Brandon Dubinsky remains day-to-day, so things seem at least a little brighter for the brittle Blue Jackets.
Fittingly, it’s not all solid-to-good news, as Fedor Tyutin won’t play tonight and his longer term status is still unclear:
Overall, Columbus still has a ways to go, but at least the Blue Jackets are starting to look healthier and put that mammoth losing streak behind them.