Gustav Nyquist

What is the Columbus Blue Jackets’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Pending Free Agents
Josh Anderson (RFA)
Gabriel Carlsson (RFA)
Pierre-Luc Dubois (RFA)
Vladislav Gavrikov
Jakob Lilja (RFA)
Joonas Korpisalo (RFA)
Ryan MacInnis (RFA)
Elvis Merzlikins (RFA)
Devin Shore (RFA)
Kevin Stenlund (RFA)

The Core

The Columbus Blue Jackets do not have the elite goal-scorer or dangerous playmaker that top-tier NHL teams have, but they do possess a few critical components of their foundation to build a long-term successful roster.

Zach Werenski and Seth Jones anchor the Blue Jackets’ blue line and make up one of the top defensive pairings throughout the NHL. Their steady play helped goaltender Joonas Korpisalo become an All-Star this season and Elvis Merzlikins look like a seasoned veteran in his rookie season between the pipes.

Pierre-Luc Dubois continued his development as a top-line center and was in position to match his 61-point total from a season ago. However, Cam Atkinson and Josh Anderson’s production dropped off dramatically. Atkinson only netted 12 goals in 44 games this season, while Anderson scored one time in 26 games. Both players missed time with injuries this season (along with most of the Blue Jackets’ roster) but couldn’t produce offensively the way they have in the past.

Despite Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin leaving the organization last summer, the Blue Jackets remained in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race up until the NHL Pause a few weeks ago.

The experience gained in the spring of 2019 when the Blue Jackets secured a playoff spot and won a series for the first time in franchise history paid dividends for the team this season.

Long-Term Needs

The Blue Jackets averaged 2.57 goals per game in the 70 games they played this season and desperately need to add more playmakers. The lack of production from Atkinson and Anderson hurt dramatically and injuries contributed to them becoming one of the bottom-five teams in goals per game this season.

One area of concern is depth at the center position. Dubois is on track to become a building block every successful team needs in the middle, but the roster lacks playmakers behind the promising young player.

Alexandre Texier showed promise this year before a back injury derailed his season and John Tortorella believes he could fill a gaping hole in the lineup.

“The thing I like about Tex is I think he understands how to play low in that (center) position,” Torts told the team website. “A lot more comes into play as a centerman when you don’t have the puck in your end zone, a lot more reads like a defenseman, and I think he has the intelligence to do that.”

Columbus does not have the sexiest roster in the NHL, but they do have the right pieces of the puzzle to be a playoff team for the next several seasons.

Long-Term Strengths

While Tortorella’s antics during press conferences have been entertaining, he had one of his strongest seasons behind the bench and proved to be one of the NHL’s best bench bosses. The Blue Jackets did not have a 50-point scorer and proved to be greater than the sum of their parts with a strong season following a tumultuous summer.

The Blue Jackets sustained a league-leading 15 overtime/shootout losses (including a mistake which produced an epic postgame press conference) and could have pulled away from a crowded playoff wild-card race if a few of those outcomes went their way.

Jones and Werenski are two world-class defenders and Dubois is growing into a dynamic center but Columbus needs to fill out its roster. The Blue Jackets’ front office must find the right corresponding pieces to skate alongside their foundational players in order to take the next step as a franchise.

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Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL Power Rankings: Best 2019-20 free agent signings

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we shift our focus back to the summer of 2019 and the free agent signings that have ended up working out the best so far.

Free agency is always a risky proposition for teams because it forces them into a bidding war for players that have most likely played their best hockey for somebody else. Most long-term contracts signed during the free agency signing period have a tendency to end in trades or buyouts. Not even one full season in and there are already a handful of contracts that are off to slow starts (Sergei Bobrovsky in Florida, Matt Duchene in Nashville, Joe Pavelski in Dallas).

Some of them, however, have worked out as planned. Those are the contracts we are focussing on here today.

When it comes to identifying the “best” contracts at this point we are trying to take into account overall performance and the value of the contract. Sometimes it is a long-term deal that looks good, other times it is a short-term “prove it” deal where everyone ended up getting exactly what they wanted.

Which free agents make the cut?

To the rankings!

1. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers. While most long-term free agent contracts end up failing to meet expectations, this is one that looks like it is going to work. Panarin is having one of the best individual seasons in the history of the Rangers’ franchise and is playing at an MVP level. Maybe he will not play at a superstar level for the entire seven-year term of the contract, but there is little reason to believe he will not be an impact player in New York for several years. One of the league’s best offensive players.

2. Kevin Shattenkirk, Tampa Bay Lightning. This was one of those “prove it” contracts. After having his previous deal with the Rangers bought out, Shattenkirk found himself back on the open market this past summer and landed in Tampa Bay on a one-year, $1.75 million contract. It has worked out tremendously for the Lightning. Shattenkirk has bounced back across the board with an improved offensive performance and dominant possession numbers. He may not be a No. 1 defender, but as a No. 2 or 3 on a contender he can still make an impact.

3. Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks (traded to Vegas). After being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy a year ago, the Islanders allowed Lehner to walk and become an unrestricted free agent. He ended up getting a one-year, $5 million contract with the Blackhawks and was one of the biggest reasons they were able to at least somewhat stay in playoff contention instead of dropping down toward the bottom of the league. They ended up trading him to Vegas at the trade deadline, and even though that return was underwhelming it was still a strong signing.

4. Joonas Donskoi, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche entered the offseason armed with one of the league’s best young cores and the most salary cap space to play with. While they did not get the big ticket free agents, they did make some really smart moves. Donskoi’s four-year deal is right at the top of that list. He has been an outstanding depth addition and provided some much-needed secondary scoring.

5. Gustav Nyquist, Columbus Blue Jackets. He is not a superstar by any means, but Nyquist has given the Blue Jackets exactly what they thought he would: 15-20 goals, a 50-point pace, and all around solid top-six play. He has also been one of the few Blue Jackets players that has not missed significant time to injury this season. His $5.5 million salary cap hit over the next three seasons (after this one) is a more than fair price tag for what he provides.

6. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders. All things being equal he is probably a downgrade from what they lost in Lehner, but he has stayed healthy and been very good for the Islanders. The four-year contract seemed like a risk (and still is) but he has been productive so far.

7. Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche. Nichushkin’s 2018-19 season was the dullest individual season in NHL history. I do not mean that as a knock. It legitimately was given that he played 57 games and did not score a single goal or record a single penalty minute (the first time any player ever did that). That resulted in him signing a one-year, $850,000 contract with Colorado. In 65 games he already has 13 goals, 27 total points, and has been another outstanding depth addition.

8. Tyler Ennis, Ottawa Senators (traded to Edmonton). Another one-year bargain. Ennis was one of the few bright spots in Ottawa this season before he was flipped to the Oilers at the trade deadline. Before this season his production had fallen off a cliff as he bounced from Buffalo, to Minnesota, to Toronto, and then to Ottawa. This was a nice bounce-back year for him.

9. Noel Acciari, Florida Panthers. Before this season Acciari scored 18 goals in 180 career games. In his first 66 games with the Panthers he has already scored 20 goals. He makes just a little more than $1 million per season. Is this goal scoring output a short-term fluke? Maybe. Does that make me overrate him right now? Probably. But finding a 20-goal scorer for just over a million against the cap is a steal no matter how you look at it.

10. Tyler Myers, Vancouver Canucks. I hated this contract at the time and thought it signaled more bumbling from a directionless Vancouver front office that was just trying to sneak into the playoffs to save face. Maybe that’s what it still is. But once I get beyond my initial criticism I have to admit that Myers has been a pretty solid addition to the Canucks’ defense. Maybe it won’t look that way in two or three years, but for now he has helped.

Honorable mentions

  • Brandon Tanev, Pittsburgh Penguins. Like Myers, I hated the length of this deal at the time, but he has been a great addition to their bottom-six and helped defensively.
  • Brett Connolly, Florida Panthers. The Bobrovsky contract might not work, but the additions of Acciari and Connolly were solid moves to add offense.
  • Mats Zuccarello, Minnesota Wild. My biggest complaint here is Zuccarello added another player on the wrong side of 30 to a team that already has a lot of them making big money. Overall, though, he has been good.
  • Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs. By no means is he a top player anymore, but as a veteran third-or fourth-line center he is great for that salary cap hit.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

My Favorite Goal: Nyquist circles and circles the Senators

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers, personalities and NHL players remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, Rotoworld’s Brian Rosenbaum remembers the time when Gustav Nyquist toyed with the Senators.

What made this goal so fantastic was that Nyquist basically had the puck for 30 seconds all by himself in a four-on-four situation circling in the offensive zone three times before firing his shot. The Ottawa players actually defended Nyquist quite well during his solo skate in their zone. But Nyquist is just mesmerizing to watch as he dipsy doodles around for a half a minute before winning the game.

“You know you have a little bit more space out there on four-on-four and the other guys did a good job creating space for me and I had a good screen in front,” Nyquist said afterward. “It’s tough to defend when you have a lot of room and you can protect (the puck) on the outside. I just tried to hold on to it as long as possible to get a good shot off and it worked.”

You check out previous “My Favorite Goal” entries here.

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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.

The Buzzer: Brodie leads Flames to OT win; sizzling Flyers win seventh straight

Sean Monahan #23, T.J. Brodie #7 and Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers

Wins on the road have been tough to come by for the Flyers this season, but they earned two points in a 5-2 victory against the division-leading Washington Capitals Wednesday. Provorov had a goal and an assist as the surging Flyers picked up their seventh straight win and moved to within one point of the Capitals for the Metro Division lead. Provorov and the rest of the Flyers defensive group have recorded an NHL-best 43 goals this season. The 23-year-old blueliner scored 6:36 into the final period to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead and wrap up the critical inter-division victory.

2) Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks

Rakell needed every second of overtime to lead the Ducks to a 4-3 victory against the Colorado Avalanche. The Swedish forward fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle and notched his first goal since January 31 with 1.2 seconds remaining in OT. Rakell also assisted on Brendan Guhle’s marker which gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead at 13:40 of the opening period.

3) TJ Brodie, Calgary Flames

With less than 11 seconds remaining in overtime, Brodie fired a wrist shot from the slot to propel the Calgary Flames to a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sean Monahan couldn’t finish a feed from Johnny Gaudreau prior to the game-winning goal, but never gave up on the play. He collected the rebound, skated around the net and found an open Brodie in between the circles. The Flames erased a two-goal third-period deficit with goals from Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk to force the extra session. Calgary sits in third place in the Pacific and trails the Vegas Golden Knights by five points for first place in the division.

Highlights of the Night

Derek Grant masterfully kicked a puck over to Kevin Hayes to help the Flyers take a one-goal lead in the second period.

Nick Foligno delivered a perfect saucer pass to Gustav Nyquist when the Blue Jackets opened up a two-goal lead on the Flames.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog feathered a wrist shot from the right circle to even the score at 2-2 late in the first period.

Blooper of the night

Coyotes forward Carl Soderberg ends up with credit for this fluky power-play goal.

Push for the Playoffs

Notable injury

James van Riemsdyk blocked a shot and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a broken right hand.

Stat of the Night

Scores

Philadelphia Flyers 5, Washington Capitals 2

Calgary Flames 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 4, Colorado Avalanche 3 (OT)

Arizona Coyotes 4, Vancouver Canucks 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Price is right for Canadiens, Malkin’s 400th goal, and Hall’s impact

NHL Scores Taylor Hall Coyotes Debut
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Three Stars

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. If the Canadiens are going to make the playoffs they are going to need more performances like this from Price. He stopped 38 shots on Tuesday and helped the Canadiens pick up a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Price had a slow start to the season but has started to get back on track over the past couple of weeks. He has won four of his past five starts with a .952 save percentage during that stretch.

2. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes. Aho is on quite the run for the Hurricanes. His three point effort on Tuesday (including two goals to put him over the 20-goal mark for the fourth consecutive year to start his career) gives him 11 points over the past five games. His assist numbers are down a little this season, but he is currently on pace for 48 goals as he continues to have an incredible chemistry with linemate Teuvo Teravainen.

3. Taylor Hall, Arizona Coyotes. His stat line in his Coyotes debut is not one that will wow you. He finished with just one assist in 18 minutes and attempted three shots in 18 minutes of ice time. But he still did exactly what the Coyotes acquired him to do — make an impact in a close game. With the Coyotes and Sharks playing in a 2-2 tie late in the third period, Hall used his speed to win a race for a loose puck, maintain possession, and set up Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the game-winning goal. Hard to ask for more than that in a debut. He will make his home debut on Thursday when the Coyotes host the Minnesota Wild.

Other notable performances from Tuesday

  • Thanks to big nights from John Marino, Bryan Rust and Tristan Jarry the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to pick up a huge 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames. That game also featured a milestone goal for Evgeni Malkin as he scored the 400th goal of his career.
  • Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok both had three points as the Nashville Predators scored seven consecutive goals to rout the New York Islanders, 8-3, ending the Islanders’ 13-game point streak on home ice (they went 12-0-1 during the streak).
  • A late goal from Matt Roy and an overtime winner from Anze Kopitar helped lift the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-3 win over the slumping Boston Bruins.
  • Carter Hart made 40 saves and the Flyers’ stars (Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek) all had big games in a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. The Flyers and their fans also showed support for forward Oskar Lindblom during the game. Read about that here.
  • Gustav Nyquist had two points, including a goal, in his return to Detroit as the Columbus Blue Jackets picked up a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Highlights of the Night

Auston Matthews scored two goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, including this beauty. Read all about his game and the Maple Leafs’ big win here.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots for the Vegas Golden Knights in their 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild and none were better than this stop. He earned career win No. 453 and is just one win away from moving into a tie for sixth-place with Curtis Joseph on the NHL’s all-time wins list.

The Tampa Bay Lightning allowed a two-goal lead to slip away against the Ottawa Senators but still managed to get the win thanks to this beauty of a goal from Anthony Cirelli in overtime.

You also need to take one more look at Andrei Svechnikov‘s second lacrosse-style goal of the season for the Carolina Hurricanes. You can do that right here.

Blooper of the Night

Nikita Kucherov did not play much in the third period of the Lightning’s win, but he did score the game’s first goal. Senators goalie Marcus Hogberg losing his stick and looking completely out of sorts certainly helped.

Factoids

  • Lou Lamoriello has now been an NHL general manager for 2,500 games. [NHL PR]
  • Thomas Chabot played 37 minutes for the Senators on Tuesday night (on the second night of a back-to-back!). According to Hockey-Reference, only Dennis Wideman’s 38 minutes in 2014 are more for a regular season game. [Elliotte Friedman]
  • Jack Eichel‘s point streak is at 17 consecutive games, one away from tying the Buffalo Sabres’ franchise record. [NHL PR]

Scores

Los Angeles Kings 4, Boston Bruins 3 (OT)
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Buffalo Sabres 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Ottawa Senators 3 (OT)
Nashville Predators 8, New York Islanders 3
Philadelphia Flyers 4, Anaheim Ducks 1
Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Detroit Red Wings 3
Carolina Hurricanes 6, Winnipeg Jets 3
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Calgary Flames 1
Montreal Canadiens 3, Vancouver Canucks 1
Vegas Golden Knights 3, Minnesota Wild 2
Arizona Coyotes 3, San Jose Sharks 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.