Beyond trading R.J. Umberger for Scott Hartnell, it’s been a pretty quiet offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That said, this is a team that won its first two postseason games in franchise history and made the Pittsburgh Penguins sweat before eventually advancing in six contests. That’s a promising building block for the future, yet Blue Jackets president of hockey operations believes that the addition of Hartnell, hopefully improved health from Nathan Horton and continued development will only mean even bigger things in 2014-15.
“To see the depth we have, not only with our team here but the youngsters coming, I think that getting Nathan in healthy is going to be a big boost for us,” Davidson said, via NHL.com. “It’s about knowing you have a chance to do some damage. This isn’t on a wing and a prayer anymore. This isn’t hoping [goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky] stops 55 shots. This is a team that has capabilities of winning at home, winning on the road, and doing some damage.”
Davidson discussed how much he likes everything about the fabric of this team, including how players stick up for each other.
Still, some might not think of much (except maybe professional wrestling?) when they hear the phrase “intestinal fortitude.” Fans looking for more concrete reasons to be excited about this Blue Jackets team would likely be pleased to find out that the team’s possession numbers improved as the season went along (chart via Extra Skater):
Maybe that’s a sign that the team’s young players improved after they got their feet wet. Perhaps it could be chalked up to a changing approach from their coach staff. It may very well be a combination of those two (and other) factors.
Either way, the numbers back up Davidson’s feelings, so the Blue Jackets could indeed be a team to watch in 2014-15.
Here are both parts of Davidson’s interview regarding his team, in case you’re interested:
The Boston Bruins aren’t ruling out the possibility of Jarome Iginla coming back for a second season, but they’re also putting together a gameplan in case he finds the kind of deal he’s looking for.
For one thing, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli believes that Loui Eriksson could slide into Iginla’s spot on the top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, CSNNE.com reports.
“I have to hedge in case we don’t sign Jarome,” Chiarelli said. “I have no problem if we have to put Loui on that top line. He’s played on top lines before and he’s played with the Sedins in the Olympics, and he was terrific. He’s better suited for an upper line. If that’s what we have to do then we’ll do it. I’m trying to be patient with this because I really feel at one point there’s going to be a player that will fit, and want to come here.”
How would Eriksson fit in?
Eriksson would be an interesting choice. The 28-year-old indeed ran shotgun with Jamie Benn for years in Dallas, often earning recognition as one of the NHL’s most underrated wingers during his time with the Stars. His two-way play could make him a hit in Boston – particularly with head coach Claude Julien – if he can avoid the kind of injury troubles that plagued his debut season with the B’s.
It would be a chance of pace, though. Lucic and Krejci have been rolling with big-bodied wingers who possessed big right-handed shots in Iginla and Nathan Horton before him. Eriksson’s not tiny by any stretch, yet he’s a left-handed winger whose style is more finesse-based.
There’s always the possibility that the Bruins add a forward in free agency, although Chiarelli made it clear that he’s “not going to go out hard to find a replacement for two reasons: the annual cost and the term.”
Term is the main sticking point with Iginla, as the Bruins would prefer to replicate the one-year, incentive-laden deal they gave the 36-year-old last time around.
If he finds that term somewhere else, it doesn’t sound like Boston will be scrambling for answers.
Jarome Iginla and the Boston Bruins want to stay together. But the relationship has some issues and, as such, it appears time to start seeing other people.
That’s the gist of today’s news as Iginla’s agent, Don Meehan, confirmed to Sportsnet that his client will be meeting with teams other than the Bruins in the coming days. This development comes as the Bruins try to navigate themselves out of a nightmarish salary cap situation; they’re carrying $4.75 million in overage bonuses charges from last season — most of which ($3.95M) was paid to Iginla — leaving them with roughly $7-$8 million in available cap space with just 17 players under contract, nine of which are forwards.
GM Peter Chiarelli has acknowledged the team’s cap crunch and has said he’ll do what he can to retain Iginla. The soon-to-be 37-year-old had a great year in Boston last year — his first as a Bruin — leading the team with 30 goals as the perfect replacement for Nathan Horton on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic (aka the “KIL” line).
One thing Chiarelli won’t do, however, is utilize one of the team’s two remaining compliance buyouts to clear space. He confirmed as much last week, leading to speculation a trade of a veteran player could be in the works. Chiarelli further stoked those flames by not ruling out the idea and, in a related rumor, there are rumblings that Johnny Boychuk could be traded.
As for who Iginla might be speaking to? Meehan wouldn’t confirm, but it’s safe to think he’d only be interesting in joining a team contending for the Cup, given it’s one of the few accolades missing from his decorated resume.
At best, you could grade Nathan Horton’s injury-ravaged first season with the Columbus Blue Jackets as “incomplete.” There’s some question about his chances of entering 2014-15 at 100 percent, yet the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline provided an optimistic update in that regard on Sunday.
Portzline believes that Horton could very well enter training camp at full strength:
Here’s one thing that should be clear: the Blue Jackets shouldn’t rush the 29-year-old back before he’s ready.
That sounds simple, yet it would be understandable if Columbus is getting antsy to get more value out of the power forward. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery in 2013 that delayed his Blue Jackets debut until Jan. 2 and then required abdominal surgery that kept him from aiding the franchise in a rare postseason appearance.
As disappointing as his 19 points in 36 games might look, It almost seems like an accomplishment that he played that many games in the first place.
Horton is about to enter the second season of a seven-year, $37.1 million deal that carries a $5.3 million cap hit.
A pair of veterans are on their way out of Dallas.
On Monday, the Stars waived defenseman Aaron Rome for the purpose of enacting a compliance buyout — their first, and the first of this year’s window — and had their contract offer to forward Vern Fiddler rejected.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Stars believe Fiddler is headed to free agency.
As for Rome, the buyout marks the end of a disappointing tenure in Dallas. Signed by ex-GM Joe Nieuwendyk in 2012, Rome got a relatively hefty three-year, $4.5 million deal despite the fact he’d never appeared in more than 56 games in a season.
Known mostly for his devastating hit on Nathan Horton during the ’11 Stanley Cup Final — and subsequent four-game suspension — Rome spent the majority of his time in Dallas dealing with foot, hip and other lower-body injuries, appearing in just 52 of a possible 130 regular-season games over the last two years.
With the buyout, the Stars will be freed of Rome’s $1.5 million cap hit and pay him $533,333 in salary over each of the next two seasons.
As for Fiddler, it’s not surprising he wants to test free agency. Reports surfaced during the year he was unhappy with his role in Dallas and, at one point, requested a trade. What’s more, this year’s free agent class is pretty thin — on Sunday, Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish said “it’s a good year to be a UFA,” — and Fiddler, a versatile center who won 52 percent of his draws last year, could garner interest from teams looking for depth down the middle.