The early part of yesterday's NHL trade deadline bonanza was more like a pitcher's duel: an exercise in strategic positioning, shrewd signals and no tipping of the hands.
For those folks who took the day off work to enjoy the trade deadline with friends, have some beers and relax, they got their wish on the relaxing part with a lack of activity around the league until the 2 p.m. hour struck. As it does every year, the final hour before the deadline had an almost-Pavlovian effect -- and then it all kicked into high gear.
To continue on this baseball analogy, the Blue Jackets began to make their move as the day went along. When talks became serious on Marian Gaborik, it was like GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the hockey operations staff started to get runners on base and then move them over...slowly but surely.
By roughly 2:15 p.m. ET, they had agreed on a major deal with the Rangers and had loaded the bases.
With the final approval from Gaborik himself, the 31-year-old star forward cleared the bases by showing no hesitation in joining the Blue Jackets. Kekalainen and Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson had orchestrated the biggest deal of deadline day and made waves around the hockey world by acquiring a crucial piece in their playoff push -- but the most incredible thing is they did so without compromising the future of the organization.
The Blue Jackets stuck to their game plan with regard to the future, but they also had a keen and aggressive eye on the present. Sitting one point out of a playoff spot with 12 games to play - the biggest of which taking place in just a few hours at Bridgestone Arena - they wanted to add to the current group and boost the offense.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What began as a standard Wednesday afternoon lunch with a few teammates quickly turned into a new opportunity for Blake Comeau.
Hanging around after a morning practice in Calgary, Comeau was exchanging text messages with his agent about when they could meet up when the team came through Colorado next week. With Comeau's contract due to expire at the end of the season and the prospect of unrestricted free agency looming, he was looking to get a head start and begin planning.
Instead, his agent soon replied that things were changing in short order.
Seeking forward depth in the wake of yesterday's trade with the New York Rangers, the Blue Jackets sought a versatile, two-way forward like Comeau to play in all situations and chip in some offense. The 27-year-old grew into a similar role with the Flames after being picked up off the waiver wire from the New York Islanders a year ago, and saw his production increase with increased responsibility on the ice.
"I think I can bring some things to (the Blue Jackets) with my physical play and my speed," Comeau said. "In speaking with them on the phone, that's what they're excited to have...I feel like as my ice time grew with the Flames, my numbers started to grow and I started to gain confidence. Hopefully, that can continue in Columbus."
7:00 A.M. -- BIG TILT TONIGHT: How's everyone doing this morning? Some kind of exciting day we had at Nationwide Arena yesterday with the Blue Jackets making headlines at the NHL trade deadline. Acquiring Marian Gaborik in a seven-piece deal from the New York Rangers, getting a backup goaltender from the Flyers in a trade for Steve Mason and adding forward depth with Blake Comeau from Calgary...it's safe to say John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen checked the items off their shopping list.
Gaborik was met in New York by Davidson yesterday and the two flew to Nashville via private plane to meet the team. The Slovak sniper is expected in the Blue Jackets lineup tonight at Bridgestone Arena and he'll be sporting his familiar No. 10, which was graciously yielded by Mark Letestu.
Before we get this blog really fired up today, let's re-live a pretty sweet moment from a few weeks back when the Jackets and Predators met in Columbus:
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Though it started slowly, trade deadline day in Columbus went from 0-to-60 in a matter of seconds.
Seeking a boost to their offense in the midst of a playoff push, the Blue Jackets made the biggest trade of the day in acquiring three-time 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers about 15 minutes prior to the 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Gaborik, one of the NHL’s elite snipers, joins the Blue Jackets at a crucial time for the club and injects a dynamic force into their forward group. At 31, he’s a three-time NHL All-Star.
He has scored 91 career power play goals, 62 game-winning goals and seven shorthanded tallies with 14 hat tricks during his 12 NHL seasons. Columbus sent Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore and a sixth-round pick to the Rangers as part of the trade, and the Blue Jackets also acquired Blake Partlett and Steven Delisle in the deal.
“Throughout this process our focus was to add a player who could provide a boost to our offense, improve our goal scoring and power play and we identified Marian Gaborik as the player we wanted,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He has been an elite goal scorer in this league for many years and we are very excited to have him.”
The Blue Jackets are flying to pick up Gaborik this evening and Kekalainen said he expects him in the lineup tomorrow when the club plays a huge game against the Nashville Predators in the Music City.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Mark Letestu joined the Blue Jackets in November of 2011 as a player seeking a new, fresh opportunity and hoped he would fit in with Columbus.
Seventeen months later, it’s safe to say he’s one of the players this management team wants to win with.
The versatile, jack-of-all-trades forward is going to be spending at least the next couple of seasons with the Blue Jackets in the city he and his growing family now call home. Letestu signed a two-year contract extension with the club today, and in doing so, removed the uncertainty that would have loomed with unrestricted free agency this summer.
Per Blue Jackets club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
But the open market wasn’t something that really appealed to Letestu, whose wife Brett is approaching her due date with the couple’s second child and who wants to put down the family roots in Ohio’s capital city.
And on the ice, Letestu has certainly fit in and played a variety of roles for Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who has come to trust the 28-year-old with important minutes in all situations. Letestu has racked up nine goals and 11 assists in 34 games this season, holds a strong +6 rating and has played 20-plus minutes in two of the last four games.
Read more on Letestu's re-signing inside this blog post.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards hinted that one item covered in the pre-game talk with his team would be "emptying the tanks" tonight against Anaheim.
Though there wasn't much left after a week-long four-game road trip through western Canada and back - and Richards said they were running on fumes in a frantic third period - but it's hard to ignore their collective resolve to stare down one of the NHL's top teams and find a way to win another crucial hockey game.
At the end of the night, the Blue Jackets had accumulated their 36th and 37th points of this truncated regular season (15-14-7) and grabbed sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference standings. There's still much work to be done and the players will quickly remind you of that, but they've worked hard to get to this point and aren't ready to stop their climb up the ladder just yet.
The next few days will also be important. Columbus does not play another game until Thursday night in Nashville, leaving plenty of time this week for the standings to shift and alter. But regardless, the Blue Jackets are right in the thick of it and it's going to be a fire-wagon finish in the next four weeks.
These Blue Jackets are mighty familiar with the concept of bonus hockey and they've strung together quite the run on home ice. They've picked up points in 12 straight games at Nationwide Arena, and with tonight's win, wrapped up a 10-2-4 record in March.Get complete post-game analysis inside this blog post.
7:00 A.M. -- WELCOME HOME! Seems like it has been ages, but finally, the Blue Jackets are back on home ice today at Nationwide Arena. We've got a big game, too: the Anaheim Ducks are in town and are coming off a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. They're hungry, the Blue Jackets are hungry...and now I'm hungry because I'm thinking about where I'm headed for lunch.
This is the second of three meetings in the season series between the Ducks and Jackets, and Anaheim got the win in the first matchup back on Feb. 18 at Honda Center. Though Columbus didn't come out with the win, we did get this wonderful highlight courtesy of BOB's glove hand:
It's not a bad week to be Kenneth Agostino.
The Yale forward had his rights traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Calgary Flames in Wednesday night's Jarome Iginla deal, and two days later, had one of the best games of his collegiate career as the Bulldogs (18-12-3) upset No. 2 Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship.
The Gophers' surprising loss means the end of a championship run for a talented group that could be split up by decisions to turn pro, most notably Florida Panthers first-round pick Nick Bjugstad who has the option to head to AHL San Antonio. Blue Jackets prospects Mike Reilly (freshman) and Seth Ambroz (sophomore) are both expected to return to Minnesota next season and pursue a national championship -- and they'll have a good shot at it once again.
And as unlikely as the Bulldogs' win was this afternoon in Grand Rapids, if you're the Gophers, you have to tip your cap to your opponent that played a hard-working, determined game from the outset.
After a scoreless opening period, Agostino opened the scoring at 7:08 of the second period, and the lead become 2-0 at 15:28 on a big power-play tally from Gus Young.
But the Gophers wouldn't go quietly. Defenseman Nate Schmidt did his thing on the power play in the third period, getting Minnesota back in it with a man-advantage marker to make it a 2-1 hockey game. Zach Budish tied the game with a nifty re-direction of Kyle Rau's shot with 6:20 tp play and the momentum appeared to be all in Minnesota's favor, but Agostino quick setup to Jesse Root at the start of overtime ended the Gophers' comeback hopes.
Yale meets the winner of tonight's first-round game between North Dakota and Niagara tomorrow afternoon.