Kukla's Korner Hockey
Contract negotiations with SKA St. Petersburg intended to draw Vezina-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky away from Columbus Blue Jackets were going on at a “high level” this offseason, the player has told R-Sport.
SKA, one of the Russia-based KHL’s wealthiest teams, reportedly offered the 24-year-old netminder $10 million per season before he became a restricted free agent in early July. Bobrovsky, whose 21-11 record and 2.00 goals against average last season earned him the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender, eventually signed a two-year deal with Columbus on July 1.
Still, the Novokuznetsk native, who starred for SKA during last season’s NHL lockout, told R-Sport at Russia’s Olympic national team orientation camp over the weekend negotiations to return to St. Petersburg had been rolling forward.
“Basically, the negotiation process was moving along, and at a high level,” he said, noting, however, that the NHL was the best career option “by far.”
While SKA’s package was never confirmed, team executive Alexander Medvedev, who is also league president, said in June it was “an excellent offer.”
Bobrovsky said money was not the sole determining factor in his decision to return to small-market Columbus, which had the NHL's seventh-lowest payroll last season.
“Of course, money plays a big role in my life, but my decisions don’t come together just for the money,” he said.
from Tim Feran of the Columbus Dispatch,
John Davidson sat in the Columbus Blue Jackets locker room recently and talked about the team’s new division (“it’s fan-friendly”), about how tough the sport is and how much he loves hockey and its history.
The team’s president of hockey operations was informal, warm and genuine, but he wasn’t shooting the breeze with players or coaches. He was shooting the latest in a series of television commercials that are part of the NHL team’s new marketing campaign.
And, in large part because of Davidson’s skills as a broadcaster, the marketing campaign is already working well, said John Browne, the Blue Jackets’ chief marketing officer.
“John speaks with such credibility, such honesty, the way he connects with people is wonderful,” Browne said. “He’s money.”
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers,
Bill Zito, a prominent NHL agent the last two decades, has divested his interest in Acme World Sports LLC to join the Blue Jackets as assistant general manager, The Dispatch has learned.
The hiring will be announced by the club later today.
Zito will head the Blue Jackets’ pro scouting department, and have a heavy hand in college scouting. He has represented NHL players such as Tim Thomas, Brian Rafalski, Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen, Ville Leino, Valtteri Filppula, Tuukka Rask and John Madden, as well as current Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski.
COLUMBUS, OHIO – Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today that Bill Zito, the founder and former president of Acme World Sports, has joined the National Hockey League club as an assistant general manager.
“Bill Zito is an astute businessman who understands all facets of our game and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Columbus Blue Jackets,” said Kekalainen. “I have known Bill for many years and believe he will be a great addition to our hockey operations staff as we continue our efforts to build a championship-caliber team.”
“It is with sincere humility and appreciation that I have accepted this opportunity to work with John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen, Chris MacFarland and the Blue Jackets staff,” said Zito. “I am excited and focused to begin this new journey.”
COLUMBUS, OHIO – Columbus Blue Jackets President Mike Priest announced today that Jody Shelley, one of the most popular players in the NHL franchise’s 13-year history, has rejoined the organization as a broadcast associate and team ambassador.
“Jody Shelley is one of the most popular players in our history and we are very pleased to have him back in the Blue Jackets family,” said Priest. “I have been very impressed by Jody’s commitment and desire to make an impact on our organization. It is obvious that he cares a great deal about this team, the community and our fans.”
Shelley will feature prominently in all aspects of the club’s broadcasting efforts, providing analysis during select Blue Jackets home radio broadcasts; serving as a regular contributor during home game telecasts on FOX Sports Ohio, including as a second analyst between the benches on occasion; and co-hosting a weekly radio show on the Blue Jackets Radio Network and flagship station Sports Radio 97.1 The Fan. In addition, he will be involved in Jackets TV coverage via the club’s website, BlueJackets.com; and actively engaged in various business and community initiatives for the organization.
“It’s always nice when a player who is a part of a team’s history wants to come back and be a part of its present and future,” said club President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. “Jody was highly thought of as a player because of his work ethic, toughness and leadership, both on and off the ice, and you can’t have enough of those types of people in your organization.”
“I’m very excited to be a Blue Jacket again and I’m looking forward to the opportunities ahead as I move into this next chapter of my life and career,” said Shelley. “Columbus is our home and to have the chance to be a part of this great organization again means a lot to me and my family. We’ve got an exciting team and great fans and I can’t wait to get started.”
from Aaron Portzline of hte Columbus Dispatch,
When the trade went down, Howson and the Blue Jackets were blistered by many in the national hockey media.
“This is a disaster for the CBJ,” said former Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean, who now works for Canadian TV network Sportsnet.
ESPN’s Barry Melrose said, “I don’t think that’s enough (in return).”
TSN’s Aaron Ward said, “I feel bad for Columbus.”
Clearly, the Blue Jackets gave up the best player in the trade. Nash is a perennial All-Star, an Olympic gold medal winner, etc.
But the trade had a transformative effect on the Blue Jackets, both on the ice and in the room. Dubinsky and Anisimov helped set the tone for what became a much faster, hard-working team.
“It gave us depth,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We went into the season knowing our strength was our defense, but with Arty and Brandon being able to play so well down the middle, it really stabilized our lineup, gave us more competitive lines, and we used those guys in just about every aspect of the game.”
from Paul Grant of ESPN,
Short-season mojo: Bobrovsky stood tall against the barrage long enough that he outlasted a lame-duck GM (who brought him in, but, still) who was replaced by a forward-thinker who put some decent players on the ice. All told in 38 games, Bobrovsky finished second in the NHL with a .932 save percentage and fifth with a 2.00 goals-against average. He went 21-11-6 and won the Vezina Trophy. Not a bad rebound, huh? The Blue Jackets narrowly missed the playoffs, but Bobrovsky established himself as a stopper to be reckoned with.
Why it will be tough to repeat: Or did he? We're turning it up a notch here, people, in 2013-14. Ready? Here goes: the Blue Jackets are now in the Metrosexual or something Division, which includes the Flyers (whoops!), Penguins and Capitals, the latter two teams that have a tad more offense than the Nashville Predators.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
A solitary veteran player dropped by the OhioHealth Ice Haus for a quick look at the Blue Jackets’ prospect-campers yesterday afternoon.
“I can’t wait to play in the (Eastern Conference),” R.J. Umberger said.
His eyes got wide and his body twitched. It was clear: He really cannot wait.
“I’m sure everyone is as excited as I am,” Umberger said.
He was speaking for his fellow veterans, but he could have been speaking for any of the 300 or so fans who nearly filled the stands at the Jackets’ practice facility. Another clutch of fans milled about in the rain outside, on the West Plaza of Nationwide Arena, where they watched Bruce Drennan of SportsTime Ohio stage his All Bets are Off show from beneath a tent. Umberger sat for an interview before he wandered into the Ice Haus.
“I think we have something to go off of now, given how last year went,” Umberger said. “There is some realness to it. We learned a lot about expectations. We’re not going so much on hope; we’re just continuing what we’re doing. And we know we can do it."
from Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
John Davidson watched four hockey reporters discuss various free agent signings on Canada’s TSN network on Friday. The Blue Jackets’ signing of Boston Bruins’ free agent forward Nathan Horton came up and the Jackets’ president of hockey operations blew a gasket.
“They asked about the good ones and the bad ones, and ( Toronto Sun columnist) Steve Simmons says ‘my bad one is Horton,’ ” Davidson said. “He says, ‘I don’t know why, it’s like going from the city to the woods.’ And the other guy who I don’t know says, ‘Yeah, it’s like going to Green Acres.’ Now is that ignorance or what? That’s just ignorance. I think it shows ignorance of what a great city this is. This is a good city. And it (ticks) me off.
“You can say things about the players on the team if we’ve not playing well, but when you come after the city, I’m not going to stand for it. I’ll come back at you like a freight train.”
Most longtime Columbus residents are used to this stupidity; I remember being on a flight from Los Angeles one time where the flight attendant announced, “For those of you connecting to Columbus, I’m truly sorry.” He was trying to be funny, I think, but it struck me as a combination of ignorance and arrogance.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
Yet, this being Day 1, there is inherent risk. Horton has suffered two severe concussions, both from hits delivered by former Jackets. Aaron Rome knocked Horton out of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. The following January, Tom Sestito hit Horton and Horton missed the rest of the season. This past spring, Horton suffered a separated shoulder in Game 1 of the Cup Finals and played out the remainder of the series. The shoulder will require surgery this summer.
So, one must take into account his health. And one must ask what motivates a man to leave a team that has been to two Stanley Cup Finals in three years, and won one. How does he perceive expectations in other markets?
Horton could be perfect here. He is 28 years old and fits the age group of a young and promising team. He satisfies a glaring need. He is looking for a quieter NHL life, and Columbus, one of America’s most-overlooked great cities, is optimal. It is a terrific place to play hockey and raise a family. If he signs here, it will be yet another indication that the JD-Jarmo Jackets are on the come, and that ownership is serious about winning.
Just keep in mind that Horton is not without risk, and he will carry a price tag of around$6 million per.
COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Columbus Blue Jackets have re-signed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a two-year contract extension through the 2014-15 National Hockey League season, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. As is club policy, terms were not disclosed.
“Re-signing Sergei Bobrovsky was a top priority for our organization and once again ownership has given us the resources to build a winning team. Bob is a terrific player and an outstanding young man with a work ethic that is second to none and was a well-deserved winner of the Vezina Trophy this season as the NHL’s top goaltender,” said Kekalainen. “He was a big part of the progress we made last season and we expect him to play an important role in the growth of our team. With the signings of Bob and Artem Anisimov, as well as the addition of the players we selected in the draft, we feel very strongly about the direction our organization is headed and we’ll continue to work in the days, weeks and months ahead to move our team forward.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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