COLUMBUS, Ohio - There aren't many dull moments when it comes to the so-called "frenzy" of the NHL's free agency period. That much, we can all agree on.
And it's not just the day itself (July 5 this year, after a condensed NHL season pushed everything back a few days) that causes so much excitement and anticipation. It's also the days leading up to the opening of free agency, with at least one major trade finalized before the floodgates open. We saw that yesterday with the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars doing business on a multi-player deal which sent Tyler Seguin to the Stars, and 30-goal guy Loui Eriksson to Beantown.
Fireworks are commonplace this time of year and the NHL rarely disappoints in supplying its own.
We're a few hours from the official opening of unrestricted free agency, but the past two days have served a purpose for several teams in the market for top players. The NHL's new collective bargaining agreement allows for a 48-hour interview period for free agents, in which they can visit their suitors and further explore opportunities they may have on the open market.
The Blue Jackets aren't the only club in the hunt for scoring, but there's a decent-to-good market in free agency. Ideally, they would like to add a top-six forward with offensive punch and size to play on either wing, giving them a pretty solid 1-2 tandem on the wing with Marian Gaborik.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NHL trade deadline included some fireworks for the Blue Jackets, but they made a solid acquisition in the shadow of a blockbuster.
Jarmo Kekalainen, seeking to bolster his bottom six and inject an element of secondary offense into the lineup, sent a fifth-round pick (2013) to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Blake Comeau. Comeau, a second-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2004, had three seasons of 25-plus points in a second and third-line role in New York before being traded to the Flames in 2011.
When it looked like things weren't going to work out in Calgary (and as the deadline approached), Comeau became available and the Blue Jackets were quick to make the deal. He became a dependable player on the second and fourth lines for the Blue Jackets, filling in when Artem Anisimov was hurt and spending time on a line with Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Exhale, Blue Jackets fans. The top cop on the force is back on the case.
Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets agreed to a two-year contract extension today, a few days before he was slated to become a restricted free agent (RFA). The agreement ends a somewhat-lengthy negotiating process that endured some fits and starts, but both sides were able to achieve their goal: get Bobrovsky under contract as the club's No. 1 goaltender.
Bobrovsky was the NHL's Vezina Trophy winner in 2012-13, posting a record of 21-11-6 in his first season with the Blue Jackets. He was acquired for three draft picks from the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, and had one year remaining on an entry-level deal that carried a salary cap hit of $1.75 million.
Terms of Bobrovsky's new contract were not immediately disclosed.
Not only did Bobrovsky capture goaltending's highest honor in the NHL, he went a long way toward establishing himself as a No. 1 goalie and giving the Blue Jackets a stable presence between the pipes.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After making a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blue Jackets moved back in the second round and acquired a third-round selection that they previously did not have.
Columbus moved the No. 44 pick to the Penguins in exchange for picks No. 50 and No. 89 in this year's draft, and with the 50th pick, selected defenseman Dillon Heatherington of the Swift Current Broncos.
Heatherington is a big kid at 6-foot-3 and 196 lbs., and is regarded as a defending defenseman who can make a solid first pass out of the zone.
The Blue Jackets know Heatherington's game well; director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright spends a lot of time in western Canada (he lives there, and does a lot of scouting in the region) and has seen Heatherington up close.
Wright played his junior hockey in Swift Current and has strong ties to the organization, as does Blue Jackets scout Andy Schneider - who was an assistant coach for the Broncos before joining Columbus' scouting staff.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Perhaps a surprise to some with trade talk swirling and the Blue Jackets showing a willingness to move one of their three first-round picks, but the club strode to the podium three times at Prudential Center and made their selections.
They got three players whom they rated highly and had interest in during the first round, the most recent being Marko Dano from Bratislava in the KHL. Dano is a native of Slovakia, and was one of the country's top players at the 2013 World Junior tournament where he put up four goals and nine points in six games on an undermanned squad.
He finished 12th on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for international skaters, and is regarded as a strong two-way player with good hockey instincts. Dano is listed as a natural center and played in the middle of the ice during the World Junior.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Mere minutes after selecting a player in Alexander Wennberg who was high on their list, the Blue Jackets selected another prospect they hold in high regard.
Columbus made Kerby Rychel of the Windsor Spitfires their second pick in the first round of the NHL Draft at No. 19 overall, and there's a lot to like about Rychel's aggressive style - and that's in addition to his knack for scoring goals and racking up points. He led the Spitfires in goal-scoring for two straight years, scoring 40 goals in 2012-13 and totaling 87 points, which was good for eighth in the entire Ontario Hockey League.
Rychel is the son of former NHL player Warren Rychel, who played for five NHL teams and won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996. Along with former Blue Jackets assistant coach Bob Boughner, Warren Rychel is the part-owner and general manager of the Spitfires, and they have built a junior hockey powerhouse in southern Ontario.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Kerby Rychel made a name for himself by getting under opponents' skin and unnerving players in the OHL playoffs. Scouts like his ability to score big goals while also playing his role to a "T," and his north-south style should be a good fit with what Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets are trying to build.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The pick is in.
With the No. 14 overall selection in the NHL Draft, the Blue Jackets selected Alexander Wennberg from Djurgarden in Sweden's second division league. Wennberg, a native of Stockholm, is listed at 6-foot-1 and 174 lbs., and is a left-shooting center who is widely regarded as a good skater with strong hockey sense.
That's what the Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekalainen have valued: competitive players who think the game at a high level, and that's one of the attributes scouts really like about Wennberg's game.
Wennberg is a two-time representative of Sweden at the World Junior tournament, winning silver both times, most recently in 2013 in Ufa, Russia. He knows Blue Jackets goaltending prospect Oscar Dansk very well, having been a teammate of his on the Swedish national team.
He played 46 games for Djurgarden last season and was second among all junior-age players with 14 goals. He's slated to play for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League this coming season, where Blue Jackets prospect Anton Forsberg is also on the roster.
Blue Jackets assistant coach Keith Acton, one of the architects of the team's strong penalty kill in 2012-13, has opted to leave the organization.
After one season in Columbus under head coach Todd Richards, Acton was named associate coach of the Edmonton Oilers this morning. Acton, who spent 10 years as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins the staff of newly-appointed Oilers coach Dallas Eakins, whom he knows well from his days in Toronto.
Eakins and Acton were both assistant coaches under former Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who had been rumored to be in the mix for the Oilers job that Acton recently accepted. Before taking the job in Edmonton, Eakins was head coach of the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
Acton was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the sixth round, 103rd overall, at the 1978 NHL Draft. He made his debut with the Canadiens during the 1979-80 season and went on to register 226 goals, 358 assists, 584 points and 1,172 penalty minutes in 1,023 career NHL games with Montreal, the Minnesota North Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. He tallied a career-high 36-52-88 with 88 penalty minutes in 78 games with Montreal in 1981-82.
It seems not long ago that Matt Calvert's breakout NHL season was derailed by a broken finger.
He can joke about the injury now, but at the time, it was gutting for Calvert - who was playing great hockey and doing things his way: with 100 percent effort on every single shift. The Blue Jackets were in the middle of their end-of-season West Coast swing and playing a big game at STAPLES Center on Apr. 18 in Los Angeles, but Calvert took a hard shot from Kings defenseman Slava Voynov off the hand and did not return to the game.
Calvert was slated to be out 2-4 weeks and missed the remaining three games of the regular season, and given how well he was playing and the impact his line was making, it was especially difficult.
Had the Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs, there was a chance Calvert could return sometime during the first round but it never got that far.
Thankfully for Calvert, the hard part is behind him and the finger is 100 percent healthy, allowing him to get into the swing of summer workouts without issue and begin preparations for the 2013-14 season.