As we look ahead to the 2014-15 NHL season, we have already discussed the Pacific Division. We’re now half-way through the Metropolitan Division, having previewed the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.
Last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets tasted the postseason. Will they return in 2015?
Additions: Scott Hartnell, Brian Gibbons
Subtractions: RJ Umberger, Nikita Nikitin, Nick Schultz, Blake Comeau, Derek MacKenzie, Jack Skille
Prospects To Watch: Simon Hjalmarsson, Kerby Rychel, Alex Wennberg, Marko Dano
- Goals: Ryan Johansen – 33
- Assists: James Wisniewski – 44
- Points: Johansen – 63
- PIM: Brandon Dubinsky – 98
- Power Play Points: Wisniewski – 28
- Time On Ice per Game: Jack Johnson – 24:40
- 5 on 5 iCORSI: Johansen – 275
Columbus climbed to 12th in the NHL offensively last year, averaging 2.76 goals per game, led by 22-year-old phenom Johansen. Unfortunately for Jackets fans, the young star remains an unsigned restricted free agent as we head into mid-September, and indications from both sides are that they aren’t close to getting a deal done.
One player (and agent) who will have an interested eye on the Johansen situation moving forward will be goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer, and will undoubtedly expect a long-term commitment. Bob will turn 29 on Sept. 20, and has been among the league’s best netminders the last two years.
The biggest move of the summer for ‘Lumbus was trading Umberger for Hartnell. Both players are 32, and carry similar cap hits ($4.75M for Hartnell, $4.6M for Umberger). The difference: Hartnell is under contract for five more years, while Umberger’s deal expires in only three. If Hartnell continues to be the more productive player, the move isn’t a huge gamble for the Jackets.
On the blue line, the Jackets will continue to ride Johnson and Wisniewski while Ryan Murray continues to develop. Murray, the second overall pick in 2012, will celebrate his 21st birthday on Sept. 27 and will look to improve on the 21 points he registered in 66 games last year.
Prediction: 87 points
The future in Columbus is tied to Johansen and Murray, and the Jackets need to get their leading scorer signed soon. Adding Hartnell doesn’t make the team a lot better (or worse), but the changes on the rosters surrounding them in the Metropolitan could help the Jackets get back into the playoffs.