The Blue Jackets haven’t had “the talk” with Scott Hartnell yet.
But they will soon.
Hartnell, the veteran forward who was made a healthy scratch in the playoffs, is a key figure as Columbus preps for June’s expansion draft. He just wrapped the fourth of a six-year, $28.5 million deal. That contract carries a $4.75M cap hit and, more importantly, a no-movement clause.
That NMC means Columbus is required to protect Hartnell for expansion purposes.
Unless, of course, Columbus can get him to waive it.
Per the Dispatch, GM Jarmo Kekalainen has yet to broach the idea with Hartnell. The Dispatch also notes that conversation will undoubtedly happen soon because, as the club’s protected list currently projects, having to protect Hartnell means Kekalainen could very well lose the services of a coveted forward.
Josh Anderson, Matt Calvert and William Karlsson are the ones in danger of being Vegas-bound. Of the three, losing Anderson would be a significant blow — the 22-year-old is coming off a breakout campaign, in which he scored 17 goals and emerged as a big, fast and physically imposing power forward.
Aside from waiving the NMC, there are other options on the table for Hartnell and Columbus.
If he doesn’t want to waive and risk possibly being scooped by Vegas — a move that doesn’t appear to fit with George McPhee’s strategy, it should be said — Kekalainen could buy Hartnell’s contract out.
Or, Kekalainen could make a deal with McPhee to avoid selecting one of the aforementioned forwards. That would appear to be the least pleasant scenario, though. Aside from giving up an asset — probably a draft pick, or picks — to keep a guy like Anderson, Kekalainen would also still be saddled with Hartnell’s contract, which runs through 2019.
And that’s maybe the key point in all of this. It’s hard to ignore Hartnell’s sharp decline in production. Over the last three years with CBJ, his goal totals have gone from 28 to 23 to 13. He’s also butted heads with head coach John Tortorella on more than a few occasions.
One assumes all that, too, will be part of “the talk.” Whenever it happens.