While a broken jaw and referee calls/non-calls have been the talk of the NHL there have been a few things abuzz in Columbus, you know the Mecca of the Hockey World (I of course say this in jest).
The Blue Jackets announced that they had signed a goaltender, no, not that
goaltender (more on that below). Veini Vehvilainen signed an entry level contract with a cap hit of $925k for each of the next 2 seasons. He has posted very impressive stats in Liiga, Findland's top pro league, according to the Blue Jackets website.*
Vehvilainen, 22, posted a 25-8-5 record, 1.58 goals-against average (GAA), .933 save percentage (SV%) and six shutouts in 38 games with Karpat in Finland's top professional league (Liiga) in 2018-19. He led the league in wins, GAA, SV% and shutouts...The Jyvaskyla, Finland native has gone 64-30-21 with a 1.83 GAA, .926 SV% and 13 shutouts in 119 career Liiga games with Karpat, Sport and JYP since 2015.
He has also performed on the international stage, winning Gold at this year's world championship with Finland as their backup goaltender.
Is this a 'depth-in-the-system' signing or will he get a chance to play in the NHL next season? The crease is filling up with goalies that lack NHL experience, but may have great potential. CBJ now have 2 goaltenders with ZERO games experience under contract for next season (Vehvilainen & Merzlikins) and Korpisalo (90 NHL games) as a pending RFA. It could be that all three get a look in camp and duke it out for the starting job in the pre-season.
In other Jackets news...
Lukas Sedlak will not wear the Union Blue for Columbus next season. An RFA on a team with a surplus of 3rd and 4th line forwards, Sedlak opted to sign a two-year deal with a KHL team. No huge surprise here. He was a part of the then Lake Erie Monsters (now Cleveland Monsters) Calder Cup winning team in the AHL.
CBJ Alumni R.J. Umberger is going to the Hall of Fame. Well, the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame anyway. He played 3 seasons at OSU and helped guide the Buckeyes to a Frozen Four appearance. In his time with the Jackets he became a fan favorite and played in the team's first post season in 2009. Congratulations R.J..
Bob and Bread COULD
return to the Blue Jackets
According to TSN.com** Jarmo stated:
"I don’t count anybody out," Kekalainen said. "I told Panarin and Bobrovsky, if they’d like to return, we’d like to have them. It’s not a money issue. We’ll pay market value. We realize that’s the price of doing business."
He also said of Duchene (in the same article):
"I would think he’d consider us after everything that he’s said, but I don’t really want to get into speculations," Kekalainen said of Duchene. "We have our own ideas and plans for our team and how everything goes together. We’ll talk about it at the right time...but what is the price? It’s not just the contract. It’s also a first-round pick."
What to make of these statements? As UFAs the players decide where they want to play. In the case of Bob and Bread, Kek is giving them an invite back with an open door (and checkbook), squarely putting the ball in their court. As for Duchene, it seems he is weighing the cost of the additional draft pick. Which seems odd at this point because you were already willing to give up that draft pick when you made the trade. Being that it was conditional, it does allow Jarmo to hedge his bet on Duchene.
After all the speculation about Bobrovsky and Panarin leaving, Jarmo would go down as a legend in the world of NHL general managers if he could retain both of them. Hell, if he could pull it off for either one it would be a HUGE win for his team. Most believed his focus would be on Duchene, but it may just be that the opposite is true.
The off-season saga continues...
*Link to ColumbusBlueJackets.com story: https://www.nhl.com/bluejackets/news/columbus-blue-jackets-sign-veini-vehvilainen-to-entry-level-contract/c-307699134
**Link to TSN.com story: https://www.tsn.ca/nhl-off-season-watch-what-do-the-columbus-blue-jackets-do-now-1.1318109