Hartnell excited to become a Blue Jacket
At the conclusion of the 2013-14 Blue Jackets season, Columbus forward R.J. Umberger asked for a trade to another team. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen granted his request Monday by moving him to the Philadelphia Flyers along with a 2015 fourth-round draft pick in exchange for Flyers forward Scott Hartnell.
The move returns Umberger to the team with which he spent his first three seasons in the NHL and brings the Jackets a top six forward who can play on the left side — a role they were looking to fill.
"He plays exactly the way we want the Blue Jackets to play," Kekalainen said. "He’s a tough opponent, someone you always notice. You hate to play against him and you’d love to have him on your team — that’s the way we feel about him."
After seven years with the Flyers, Hartnell waived a no movement clause that allowed the transaction to move forward. The 32-year-old comes to Columbus with five years remaining on a contract with a $4.75 million cap hit per season. Hartnell has played in 953 NHL career games with both Nashville and Philadelphia and has notched 250 goals, 287 assists and 1,452 penalty minutes.
The two players involved in the trade are the same age and bring a similar cap hit to their new teams. The Jackets will take on an additional two contract years with Hartnell as compared to Umberger, who has only three years remaining on his current deal.
Hartnell admitted that the idea of changing teams came as a surprise. Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall reached out to Hartnell a few days ago.
"(Hextall) said a few teams had inquired about me and he hemmed and hawed about my role in Philadelphia," Hartnell said. "He didn’t see my role as it was before — they wanted to go with another style of play."
The former Flyer admitted that the news took him by surprise — he was upset and took a few days to think through the situation. He used the time to talk with Columbus president of hockey operations John Davidson, Kekalainen, and Blue Jacket color analyst and former Flyer Jody Shelley among others.
"Jody had nothing but positives to say," Hartnell said. "And hearing the passion (Davidson) has for Columbus — a team that wants ya is better than a team that doesn’t want ya. I’m excited."
The Jackets GM and Hartnell spoke Sunday night and again Monday morning. As a result of those conversations Hartnell agreed to join the Jackets.
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Kekalainen said that his discussion with Hartnell had the former Flyer asking all the right questions about where the Jackets are headed.
"He wanted to know that we’re committed to winning," Kekalainen said. "He told me ‘I want to win — I’ m 32 years old, I’ve made a lot of money, I want to win. That’s what he’s coming to do and that’s what he wants to do."
Kekalainen said he’s excited about bringing Hartnell on board and praises his hockey sense. The Jackets GM believes that will contribute to the increased speed the organization is seeking to build in their young club.
"(Hartnell) goes to the net, he goes to the hard areas, he can play with good players and make plays," Kekalainen said. "He’s a good leader — he’s been to the battle and he’s been to the Stanley Cup finals, he knows what it takes."
The Jackets also believe Hartnell will be a positive contribution off the ice.
"He’s been around the league a long time so everyone knows what he can bring on the ice. He’s not a guy that anyone has to wonder what he’s done or what kind of career he’s had," Kekalainen said. "I think he can have a voice in the locker room right away."
Hartnell admitted it will be tough facing his former team — the Jackets and Flyers play one another five times this season — but ultimately he is excited about the new group of players he’s joining.
"Columbus was the focus," Hartnell said. "I don’t think it will take me long to get used to Blue Jacket colors."
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