Hartnell lands in Columbus because Philly didn't want him
JUN 24, 2014 11:30a ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Boiled down to its essence, everyone needs to have the feeling of being wanted. Hockey players are no different in wanting that feeling from the team for which they are playing. It is a basic human emotion.
Five days ago, when Flyers general manager Ron Hextall came to Scott Hartnell's agent and asked him to waive his no-movement clause, that feeling of being wanted in the city of brotherly love evaporated. "There were multiple phone calls," said Hartnell's agent Dean Grillo. "Ultimately, (Hartnell) thought he was going to be, after being in the city for so long and entrenched as he was, he kind of thought he was a Flyer for life."
Scott Hartnell elaborated, "(Hextall) said there were a couple of teams that inquired about me. He hemmed and hawed about my role and my position in Philadelphia, and decided it was best for me to move on from the Flyers."
"To be honest," said Hartnell, "I was shocked at first. I was a little angry. I didn't know what to think of it. I took a few days to look at the situation. It was a lot of emotion. "
Ultimately, he waived his no-movement clause and accepted the trade to Columbus because the Blue Jackets wanted him, "a team that was excited to have me, instead of a team that basically said I was done there."
On the surface, the trade appears to be a wash. Both players are 32 years old. Umberger's cap hit was $4.6M that runs through 2016-17. Hartnell's cap hit is $4.75M and runs through 2018-19. Both are left-handed shots playing left wing. Umberger had 18 goals last season to Hartnell's 20. And no salary is being retained by either team.
But, if you look a little deeper, the difference between the two players becomes apparent. More and more NHL teams are turning to advanced statistics, "fancy stats," in determining if a player is a good fit for their club. Columbus is no different and Kekalainen said Monday about Hartnell, "The analytics were good, a lot of positives."
The advanced stat that really shows the difference between Hartnell and Umberger is "Corsi for percentage" or CF percentage. Hartnell's CF percentage consistently, year after year, shows that his teammates are better with him on the ice. Conversely, Umberger's CF percentage shows that his teammates played better without him. In essence, the Blue Jackets got better by subtraction.
"He thinks the game fast," said Kekalainen. "He knows where to go. I think that when you get to play with the players he's played with on his previous teams, that's a testament to his hockey sense and the way he thinks the game. He plays exactly the way we want the Blue Jackets to play."
Kekalainen was granted permission from the Flyers to speak with Hartnell over the weekend. They had a long conversation on Sunday about Hartnell coming to Columbus. "He had a lot of questions," Kekalainen said, "but the only real hard question that he asked me was 'Are we committed to winning?' That was his only concern, wherever he was going to go. He said 'I want to win. I'm 32 years old. I've made a lot of money. I want to win.' And that's basically the question I wanted to hear, too."
"He wanted to go to a team that he feels has a chance to win the Stanley Cup," said Kekalainen.
After seeing what the Blue Jackets did in the postseason, Hartnell likes what he sees. "I was watching the Pittsburgh-Columbus series, and they had just as much of a chance to win that series as Pittsburgh did. The best part was that they were disappointed to not be in the second round and going forward. That's a great feeling for the team. They're not just happy to make it there (playoffs). They want to win. And that's me. All I want to do is win."
He recalled playing against the Blue Jackets in their first season in the Eastern Conference and that they are a tough opponent. "You were always checked, always being hit," he said. "I'm like 'Ah, jeez, who are these little turds running around out there?"
He joked about calling the Blue jackets "little turds," but should fit right in with them as he has a reputation as an agitator. Pittsburgh fans, who now have a reason to look at Columbus with something other than ambivalence, positively despise him. He might be a pest, but he's Columbus' pest now.
"After talking with JD (John Davidson) and Jarmo (Kekalainen), it was pretty clear that a team that wants you is a better place than a team that doesn't want you. I'm pretty excited about that."
Last July, Columbus signed Nathan Horton, which was the big free agent catch of the summer. Did this have any bearing on Scott Hartnell making the decision to waive his no-movement clause and come to Columbus? Are the Blue Jackets becoming a "destination" now?
"It sends a pretty clear message that they are ready to take the next jump," said Hartnell. "Also, signing (Sergei) Bobrovsky. If you look at the teams that have won a Stanley Cup in the past four or five years, they all have great goaltending. I think 'Bob' can get the job done."
"Through the whole organization, they've got great 'D' that can move the puck and their forwards are quick and fast and hard to play against. Columbus has a great chance going forward. I'm real excited to make the move and get settled in Ohio."
Columbus gets a player in Hartnell that brings a veteran presence to the team, including his playoff and Stanley Cup Final experience. He'll be stepping into a tight locker room with almost instant respect. He was a fan favorite in Philadelphia and that should translate very easily to Columbus. At the end of the day, the Blue Jackets got not only a good hockey player, but a good guy, too.
"I'm not going to sit around for the next two months and mope. I can't wait to get to Columbus and can't wait to see the fans, as well. It was pretty cool watching those playoff games and obviously playing there during the year. I'm not sure what my number's going to be, but I hope to see a couple of new 'HARTNELL' jerseys in the stands."
I'm sure that Hartnell won't have anything to worry about when it comes to the fans wearing his jersey within the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena in the very near future. Hartnell just became the newest "brick" of a resurgent Blue Jackets team.