COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not difficult to recognize Blue Jackets goalie prospect Joonas Korpisalo, and that's a good thing.
He was the 6-foot-2, lanky goaltender wearing extremely-visible, red-and-yellow goalie equipment indicative of his Finnish club (Jokerit), the organization previously headed up by Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
Korpisalo’s goalie mask is highlighted by the “jester” of Jokerit, but there’s nothing funny about the significant improvements he’s made in his game.
Rewinding to one year ago, the Blue Jackets drafted two goaltenders at the 2012 NHL Draft – first it was Oscar Dansk at No. 31 overall and Korpisalo followed in the third round – and both recently took part in development camp for a second consecutive year. In selecting both goalies, the Blue Jackets were able to draft the two highest-rated goalies on their list, giving the organization a strong pipeline in net.
Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark is the man who puts in the time to make sure these kids fulfill their NHL potential, and he sees development camp as his best annual opportunity to go “hands on” with the goalie prospects. One of his objectives is to give the players specific instruction to take back to their respective teams, and last year, Korpisalo (like all the goalie prospects) had some homework when he returned to Finland.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The third day of July is usually circled on the calendar in Columbus with Red, White and Boom, but it was also a pretty important day for Ryan Murray.
A few weeks prior, both Murray and Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson agreed that the young defenseman's injured shoulder was back to 100 percent after nearly six months of rehabiliation - a period that was at times lonely, frustrating and nothing short of a bummer to watch his friends and teammates playing hockey.
Despite all the negatives of missing the majority of the regular season (and potentially a chance at his NHL debut), Murray took it all in stride and committed to getting the shoulder back to normal, and doing so the right way. However long it took post-surgery to rebuild the strength and range of motion in the shoulder, Murray was all-in.
The final hurdle came Wednesday at his final doctor visit prior to development camp, which begins this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. Murray passed all the check-ups and was cleared for full contact, meaning he can return to playing hockey at the pace and intensity he's become accustomed to.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The phrase "you can never have enough depth" is often said by NHL general managers. The Blue Jackets are doing their part and making sure they have plenty of depth in time for the upcoming season.
Jack Skille is the latest to join the mix, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the Blue Jackets today to give the team another solid option for Springfield (AHL) and also a player who has proven his ability to be a dependable guy at the NHL level. Skille has spent the past three seasons with the Florida Panthers, playing 40 of 48 games in 2012-13 and putting up 12 points (three goals, nine assists).
Skille, a native of Madison, Wis., was an impact player for his hometown Badgers in two years with the program after graduating from the United States National Development Team Program (USNTDP) in 2005. He was selected in the first round (seventh overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2005 NHL Draft, and after his collegiate career was over in 2007, he joined the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate to begin his professional hockey life.
He was dealt to the Panthers in 2011 as part of a deal that brought Michael Frolik to Chicago, and seemed to gain some NHL footing in south Florida. Skille has been a regular point producer in the AHL, but hasn't been able to find the same scoring touch in the NHL.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said that players will decide their own fate with the Blue Jackets, and Skille will be no different when training camp begins in September. He'll be given a chance to gain a spot in Columbus, and if that doesn't work out, he will be a go-to guy for Brad Larsen in Springfield and be a top call-up option for the Blue Jackets.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – At the top of Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s offseason shopping list was a scoring winger, and today, he checked it off.
Just days after a free-agent visit with the Blue Jackets that included a tour of the facilities and the city of Columbus, Horton decided to make this his long-term home. Horton and the Blue Jackets agreed to terms on a seven-year contract this afternoon, solidifying the top-line right wing spot for the foreseeable future.
Horton comes to Columbus after three successful seasons with the Boston Bruins, highlighted by a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. Kekalainen and team president of hockey operations John Davidson were not shy in stating their intentions of adding offense to a Blue Jackets club that struggled at times to score goals last season, and it’s safe to say Horton was high on their list of targets.
And why not? He’s a perfect fit for the Blue Jackets.
When the Blue Jackets acquired Marian Gaborik in a multi-player blockbuster deal at the trade deadline, Kekalainen said he was focused on upgrading the team’s skill up front, in particular on the wings. With depth at center ice (Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Johansen, Mark Letestu and Derek MacKenzie all down the middle), the Blue Jackets made scoring goals a focal point of their offseason additions.
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.