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Report: Blue Jackets’ Jack Johnson requests trade

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Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson has requested a trade, according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.

The 31-year-old Johnson, who was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to Columbus six years ago next month, had been one of the team’s more relied-upon defenders, but this year things changed. He was leap-frogged on the depth chart and saw his minutes drop from the nearly 25 per night to 19:25. During Thursday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, he played just 13:43, his lowest of the the 2017-18 NHL season.

All parties involved — Johnson, his agent, Pat Brisson, and Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen — declined comment.

So why now? Johnson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, isn’t unhappy, per Portzline, and would not have asked out if he was signed beyond this season.

From The Athletic:

But Johnson, who turns 31 on Saturday, is feeling enormous pressure to sign a multiyear contract when he hits unrestricted free agency July 1.

His well-publicized bankruptcy four years ago has cut sharply into his life savings, such that Johnson will need his next contract — and perhaps another one after that — to set up him and his family for the years after his career.

“He doesn’t have the nest egg that most 12-year NHL veterans would have, obviously,” the source said.

Per the bankruptcy settler, Johnson was granted $246,000 for “living expenses” this season and last. Over the next three years, he’ll keep $277,050.50 until the creditors are satisfied. But here’s where his next contract comes into play. Four of his creditors will take 10 percent of his future earnings if the next contract he signs is more than $4.5 million over a three-year span, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

A better situation coupled with better play would help Johnson build that “nest egg” through free agency this summer.

Who could Johnson help? Well, some team looking to help their depth might be interested, and while the blue liners is famous for his poor career possession stats, he can chip in offensively. In 45 games this season, he has two goals and seven points. He scored 11 goals over the last two seasons.

There are a number of other defenseman out there who could better serve teams this season as rentals — Mike Green, Cody Franson, to name two — but considering Johnson’s situation and play, he might be able to be had on the cheap.

UPDATE: Here’s what Kekalainen had to say about the report, via the Columbus Dispatch:

“It’s the same with him as anyone else on our team: We’ll make a trade if and when we have something that makes sense for the Blue Jackets.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blackhawks defense drama: Brent Seabrook scratched

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On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks put Cody Franson (fancy stats darling) on waivers. A day later, it was revealed that (frequent analytics punching bag) Brent Seabrook will be … a healthy scratch.

Wow.

There’s no denying that Seabrook, 32, has struggled recently. In some circles, he’s been a target of criticism for quite some time, with middling possession stats making for a toxic mix alongside his problematic contract.

Even so, it’s startling to see it actually happen in 2017-18, with his $6.875 million cap hit running through (gulp) 2023-24. For context, that contract runs one season beyond those of Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane, who all see their deals expire after 2022-23.

It’s all a lot to take in for a Blackhawks team that will need to battle to make the playoffs, and one that seems to be suffering from some stark salary cap realities.

“I want to get back to being more consistent,” Seabrook said after learning about being scratched, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think I’ve had good stretches and bad stretches.”

With Franson headed to the AHL – at least for now, if a trade isn’t coming – after clearing waivers, the Blackhawks’ already-suspect defense now seems to be in disarray. Joel Quenneville might roll with a combination of Keith, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, Jordan Oesterle, Michal Kempny, and Connor Murphy. (Erik Gustafsson is also available.)

Lazerus notes that Rutta, Forsling, Oesterle, Kempny, and Murphy combine for about $7.1M in cap space, barely eclipsing Seabrook’s $6.875M. That’s … not really good for anyone, really.

Now, it’s important to realize that Coach Q indicates that Seabrook may not spend much time as a healthy scratch. That’s fair, because if you can manage to put aside Seabrook’s play relative to his contract, the Blackhawks should probably use him in some fashion.

With back-to-back games (at Ottawa tonight, against the Wild in Chicago tomorrow), this could very well be a short break for Seabrook.

If this works out, it could be a wake-up call to the team as a whole, not just a fading veteran who has plenty of moments that should stand out to Blackhawks fans. He scored big goals, often in overtime, in helping the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups.

Still, it’s one of those moments that makes sense in theory but is startling in reality.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Need defense help? Cody Franson is worth the tiny risk

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Yes, it’s true that Cody Franson isn’t perfect. It’s also true that he’s no longer the scoring threat who generated 30+ points twice and neared that mark a few other times.

And, yeah, he’s not the most fleet-footed blueliner either.

You can poke some holes in Franson’s game, which is part of the reason why the Chicago Blackhawks put him on waivers today. Franson is one of those guys who’s generated debate for years, as his stats frequently stand out to those who are analytics-minded.

Even in his limited form, Franson still checks out quite well in 2017-18, at the age of 30.

You can see his strong fancy stats at a glance at Hockey Reference, and also in these persuasive tweets:

There’s a reasonable counterpoint to the worries about speed, too.

That said, Franson did get waived by a Blackhawks team that’s desperate for speed, so maybe he’s really not particularly useful?

Well, here’s where I’d stand as a GM of a team: it wouldn’t hurt a whole lot to find out.

Most importantly, it’s crucial to realize what kind of blueliner we’re talking about here. Ideally, Franson would be a bottom-pairing guy, rather than someone in one of the top two pairings, where a team would suffer far more from whatever flaws a player might have. In some cases, Franson might even be a seventh defenseman, subbing in for injuries or cold streaks.

By that metric, it’s tough to imagine Franson failing to be an upgrade over some of the weaker defensemen on all but the deepest groups. He carries a $1 million cap hit this season, which now counts a little under $500K in 2017-18 ($478,495, according to Cap Friendly), so he’s dirt-cheap, too. Franson wouldn’t cost a lot more than the league minimum, and he’d only take up a roster spot for a team claiming him.

There’s also the Calvin Pickard scenario, as Stanley Cup of Chowder points out; a team might want to work out a trade with the Blackhawks after Franson clears waivers, thus eliminating some of those roster spot concerns.

Franson isn’t going to set the world on fire, but maybe he’d cause fewer fires in his own end than a team’s current defensive options? Considering the premium on passable defensemen in the NHL, one of the other 30 teams should make a point to find out if he’d be a better fit with their team than he’s been in Chicago.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Panthers’ lethal top line lost their Dadonov

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Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is thankful that his vision guides the franchise once again, but the results for his renovation have often been pretty unappealing so far in 2017-18.

That said, the Panthers’ top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov has been electric, with Dadonov’s return to the NHL being a smash success. Even with some slow production for Dadonov in his past few games, he’s been outstanding by metrics both fancy and simple, including generating 18 points in 22 games. Dadonov’s addition/return sure seems to be the no-brainer highlight of an otherwise polarizing (if not just flat-out poor) summer.

Unfortunately, a shoulder injury really spoils the fun for “Dad,” however, as he’s expected to miss four-to-six weeks. That news comes from a variety of reports, including Panthers play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein.

Dadonov probably suffered his shoulder injury thanks to this hit by Cody Franson of the Chicago Blackhawks:

Early on, it looks like the dynamic duo of Barkov and Huberdeau will see Denis Malgin as their new winger. Malgin, 20, was recently recalled from the AHL; he scored 10 points in 47 games last season and was unable to generate a goal or an assist in five regular-season contests in 2017-18, though he was receiving less than 10 minutes of ice time per night.

Dadonov, Barkov, and Huberdeau were essentially attached at the hip at even-strength so far this season, so if there’s a drop-off with Malgin/assorted other forwards, it will be that much easier to see how much of a difference Dadonov makes.

The Panthers are taking on the Devils in New Jersey tonight. Florida’s currently ranked second-to-last in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with 18 points (8-12-2). On paper, losing Dadonov will only exacerbate this team’s issues, and it must sting to see Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith stand as such strong contributors for the Vegas Golden Knights.

(Marchessault was named the NHL’s first star of the week. Ouch.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Who’s still left? Here are 10 notable UFAs

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The oldest: Jaromir Jagr, 45, won’t be returning to the Florida Panthers. But he still wants to play. The future Hall of Famer had 16 goals and 30 assists in 82 games last season.

The most points last season: Thomas Vanek, 33, was reportedly talking with “several teams” on July 1, but no deal yet. Vanek split 2016-17 between Detroit and Florida. The fact he only scored two goals in 20 games for the Panthers may have hurt his value, but he did have 48 points in 68 games overall.

The most goals: Mike Fisher, 37, is apparently considering retirement. But if he decides to keep playing, it’s hard to imagine he signs with anyone but Nashville. Fisher had 18 goals in 72 games last season, then helped the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

The most points by a defenseman: Andrei Markov had 36 points (6G, 30A) for Montreal. The Habs would like to bring the 38-year-old back, but GM Marc Bergevin says his final offer has been made. The message to Markov? Take it or leave it.

The most right-shot defenseman: We’ll give this to Cody Franson, the 29-year-old who’s spent the last two years in Buffalo. Franson is no savior, but he’s not too old, and he was pretty productive on the power play during his days with the Maple Leafs.

The most Rocket Richard Trophies: Jarome Iginla, 40, is still unsigned. The two-time leading goalscorer in the NHL scored just 14 times last season for Colorado. He wants to keep playing, but it remains to be seen if he’ll get an offer he likes.

The most to prove: That would be Shane Doan, 40, after being cut loose by the Arizona Coyotes. Doan had just six goals in 74 games, but apparently some teams are interested.

The most fast (a.k.a. the fastest): Viktor Stalberg can still fly at 31 years old, and he’s got plenty of postseason experience to boot. The Ottawa Senators would like to keep him, and he’d like to stay. But the two sides have yet to reach a deal, so he may have to look elsewhere.

The most under-30: Among regular NHLers last season, 24-year-old defenseman Nikita Nesterov is the youngest UFA. He became an unrestricted free agent after the Canadiens chose not to extend a qualifying offer.

The most points by an under-30 UFA: That honor belongs to 26-year-old forward Alex Chiasson, who was cut loose by the Calgary Flames after registering 12 goals and 12 assists in 81 games.