Scott Hartnell

Can the Blue Jackets justify their big spending?


Much of the narrative surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets revolves around what this team can do with even a reasonably clean bill of health. It overshadows a key question, though: can they live up to the hype?

The Columbus Dispatch’s Michael Arace shines a light on this situation, as the market isn’t accustomed to the Blue Jackets coming into a season with such aspirations.

So, Jackets fans ought to doff their cap to majority owner John P. McConnell. Whatever else one might say about the man, he has been willing to spend on talent. That is all one can ask of an owner. The rest is on management and on the players.

The first and last time the Jackets were a “cap team” was in 2011-12, after the big-ticket acquisitions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. That team was a chic midsummer pick, too. Carter was a dog and begged out of town, but not before he poisoned the locker room. Then, Rick Nash asked for a trade for the (cough, cough) betterment of the franchise. That season was a disaster.

Interesting stuff, and it really does spotlight something many haven’t considered: the stakes are pretty high for this edition of the Blue Jackets.

Married to some pricey players

The Blue Jackets are under pressure to show that this roster will be competitive both in 2015-16 and in the future, as a ton of their contracts are hefty and long-term.

Brandon Saad ($6 million), Brandon Dubinsky ($5.8M), Nick Foligno ($5.5M), David Clarkson ($5.25M) and Scott Hartnell ($4.75M) all boast contracts that run through 2018-19 or later. Sergei Bobrovsky ranks as one of the NHL’s most expensive goalies with his $7.425 million cap hit. Ryan Johansen’s a huge steal right now at a $4 million mark, but a big upgrade is looming as his deal expires after the 2016-17 campaign.


Long story short, the picture is pretty clear. The injury angle screams “plenty of room to improve,” yet the Blue Jackets aren’t exactly in a place where they have nothing to lose.

In fact, the franchise might not be able to afford another disappointing season, lucky or not.

Teacher-pest: Blue Jackets add Jarkko Ruutu to staff

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The Columbus Blue Jackets already valued their image as “little rats,” and now it sounds like they’ll get to learn from one of the biggest pests. The Blue Jackets hired Jarkko Ruutu as a scout and European player development coach on July 2.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen explained to the Columbus Dispatch why he hired the former pot-stirring forward.

“I absolutely want a person and a player like Jarkko around our young guys,” Kekalainen said. “This is a guy who worked his (butt) off and did everything he could to get to the league and stay there.

“His work ethic earned him everything he’s got. There’s a great lesson there.”

They might not need many lessons in chirping, though, at least ones that current roster players couldn’t already provide.

One assumes that the likes of Scott Hartnell could make fun of people almost as well as he can mock himself. We’ve already seen what happens when people rub Ryan Johansen and Brandon Dubinsky the wrong way.

Others will need to scratch and claw to make an increasingly impressive roster, so perhaps Ruutu can impart some useful wisdom on those trying to find a way.

Dano ‘an exciting player’ for Blackhawks


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 “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.”

Related: Brandon Saad is ‘just out for a Sunday stroll,’ scoring big goal after big goal

Get to know a draft pick — Lawson Crouse


Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Lawson Crouse (LW)

Height: 6’4 Weight: 215 Shoots: Left

Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

One of the biggest in this year’s draft. A hulking, physical presence, Crouse’s strength is his size yet he showed good offensive skills this season, leading OHL Kingston in goals (29) and points (51) despite playing just 56 games.

Still, the jury’s out on what kind of player Crouse projects to be at the NHL level. Optimists think he’ll be a power forward along the lines of Milan Lucic; pessimists suggest he’ll be more like Tom Wilson — not necessarily a bad thing, but a bit underwhelming (offensively speaking) for a potential top-10 pick.

The wildcard with Crouse are his intangibles: work ethic, grit, dedication and leadership. The stuff that flies in the face of analytics and fancy stats, but endeared him to his GM in Kingston — former Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour.

“He’s a great kid in the dressing room, he’s going to be a great leader,” Gilmour said recently, per Sportsnet. “He’s a big body. He can skate, he’s got a pro shot — his release is phenomenal.

“He’s going to compete.”

Seidel says:

“Crouse is a man-child that skates exceptionally well and is comfortable in all three zones. Nicknamed ‘The Sheriff,’ he plays a heavy game, loves to finish checks and make opponents pay the price on every shift. His offensive game still has to evolve as he isn’t a naturally gifted scorer or set-up man, but does possess a pro-caliber shot that will serve him well in the NHL. He’s also a guy that will go into high-traffic areas. A surprise selection to Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the World Juniors, Crouse is the type of player coaches love to have in their arsenals.”

NHL comparable: Andrew Ladd/Scott Hartnell

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Report: Foligno will be new Blue Jackets captain


On Wednesday, Columbus will reportedly confirm what’s been rumored for a while — that Nick Foligno will become the sixth captain in franchise history.

Foligno, 27, will receive the “C” following a great campaign which he scored a career-best 73 points, signed a six-year, $33 million extension and was named a captain for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game — an event that Columbus hosted, and during which Foligno emerged as one of the faces of the franchise.

Columbus has been without a captain since Rick Nash exited the organization three years ago. Prior to Nash, the leadership mantle was carried by Adam Foote (2005-08), Luke Richardson (2003-05), Ray Whitney (2002-03) and the club’s inaugural captain, Lyle Odelein (2000-02).

As for alternate captains — the Columbus Dispatch, which broke news of Foligno’s captaincy late Tuesday afternoon, reports that as many as four could be named, but might not be revealed until the fall. Candidates for the “A’s” will likely include Boone Jenner, Scott Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky and Jack Johnson. Ryan Johansen, the club’s leading scorer and arguably best player, could also warrant consideration though it remains unclear how he’s viewed in a leadership capacity after his tumultuous contract negotiation from last fall.