The Columbus Blue Jackets made some changes from their team of last year, which saw them eliminated easily in five games to the Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins.
They traded Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg and a draft pick to acquire one of the up-and-coming scoring threats in the leaguein Panarin. The Chicago Blackhawks had salary cap issues due to the excessive contracts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
They gave up on a talent like Panarin and weren’t upset about letting Saad go back to the Windy City. Panarin has averaged almost a point a game in his two-year NHL career, including 61 goals in 162 games and an impressive 15.3 shooting percentage.
Jarmo Kekalainen, the general manager of the Blue Jackets stated, “There is a cost to adding a player like Artemi, as well as a very good prospect in Tyler Motte, but we believe this is a very good move for our team.”
The team bought out his contract, and he signed with the Nashville Predators. At 35, it looked like Hartnell’s better days were decreasing.
Losing Saad was a loss, but with the addition of Panarin, the Blue Jackets seem to have gained some in their offensive arsenal. The Blackhawks realized that Panarin’s two-year contract of $6 million a year would affect their salary cap issues, so he became expendable.
In the Saad/Panarin trade, Columbus gave up Forsberg, a goalie who has had limited NHL experience. When you have a goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky who is a two-time Vezina winner, you really don’t need a young goalie with some potential.
Moving on up
The Blue Jackets are hoping that right wing Josh Anderson will continue to progress. In 78 games last season he tallied 29 points, including 17 goals, including three game winning goals. He’s a big kid at 6’3″, 221lb who fits right into the typical NHL size body needed to succeed in the league.
In spite of this, he has yet to sign a contract to remain with the team at the time of writing.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is a right wing who got some NHL experience last season appearing in 26 games, and accumulating six goals, seven assists, including an assist in five playoff games. He was a third round draft pick in 2013 for the Blue Jackets and may need to bulk up from his current 174lb frame.
Joonas Korpisalo will continue to be the backup goalie to Bobrovsky and that may be the best he can do.
Sonny Milano is a left wing from Massapequa, N.Y. The 21-year-old played one game in the Blue Jackets’ playoff series against the Penguins. It’s yet to be determined if he’ll get a shot at a spot on the Columbus’ roster or not.
What can the Blue Jackets achieve this season?
It may be difficult to exceed the franchise best 108 points they obtained last season. Nonetheless, they have some talented players, and adding Panarin certainly can’t hurt. They really won’t expect to win 16 straight games or score ten goals in one game against the Montreal Canadiens.
They need to ink Alexander Wennberg to a deal, as his three-year $4.2 million contract has expired. He told rotoworld.com:
“Eventually it’s going to work out,” Wennberg said. “Even though I have to wait a little longer than expected, that’s a part of it. But you can’t really let that get to your head. Right now, I’m focusing on training and focusing on [this] season and it’s going to work out. Time will tell. I’m not too stressed out about it either.”
Wennberg managed 13 goals, 46 assists in 80 games with the Blue Jackets last season, and they should be motivated to get his signature on a contract soon. Considering he was their second highest scorer on the team, behind leader Cam Atkinson they will do what’s necessary to keep him in Ohio.
The team also picked up center Jordan Schroeder from the Minnesota Wild. He signed a two-year $1.3 million contract.
If they intend to make the playoffs, they need to figure out how to get past the first round. They’ve been to the postseason three times since the 2008/09 season and have a dismal 3-12 record, getting knocked out in the first round each time.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have the talent, they just need to make it past that first hump… and usually, that includes the Penguins.
That’s one mighty big hump to overcome.
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