Scott Hartnell has spent the past two seasons as a Columbus Blue Jacket, but there appears to be a chance he enters the 2016-17 campaign pulling on another team’s jersey.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Hartnell, 34, has agreed to waive his no-move clause for several teams. Friedman added that while Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Hartnell’s agent Matt Oates refused comment on whether Hartnell has waived the clause, it’s believed that Hartnell hasn’t limited the list and Friedman called it a ‘decent-sized list’ of potential trade destinations.
Hartnell moving on could have been foreseen given the rumblings about his availability during the past campaign, but his lack of ice time and reduced role made it abundantly clear that if the veteran winger wanted to remain a top-six player, he’d have to find a spot outside of Columbus. Hartnell averaged 15:35 of ice time this past season. That’s the lowest average ice time since his third NHL campaign. But he still produced in limited minutes, and that could make him an intriguing trade option.
In the 79 games Hartnell saw action, he posted 23 goals and 49 points. That’s a step back from his 28-goal, 60-point campaign the year prior, sure, but he also played nearly two minutes less per game. Over the past three seasons, Hartnell is one of only 42 players to score at least 70 goals and his 161 points rank over the past three campaigns ranks 53rd among all players. As far as left wingers go, his production since the start of the 2013-14 season mirrors that of Jussi Jokinen, Thomas Vanek, Andrew Ladd and Ondrej Palat.
Because of his production, the ask for Hartnell won’t be small, but it could be significantly lower than what it was during the campaign. According to Friedman, potential deals involving Hartnell could have happened, but Kekalainen and Co. were asking for too much in return. That scared off some suitors.
The biggest issue — and the stumbling block interested parties will face — is that Hartnell still has three years remaining on his six-year, $28.5-million deal, per CapFriendly. The annual cap hit of $4.75 million won’t be easy for many teams to stomach, especially with the cap expected to rise only marginally this off-season. The actual salary, which dives from $5 million in 2016-17 to $3 million in 2018-19, makes Hartnell’s deal a bit easier to deal with in bottom-line terms, but the cap hit will be what matters most.
Hartnell’s cap hit will likely mean the Blue Jackets have to soften their asking price, and ditching the deal could pay great dividends for Columbus moving forward. According to CapFriendly, if the cap remains relatively flat and Hartnell sticks around, Kekalainen will only have about $5 million to work with. That’s without restricted free agents Seth Jones and William Karlsson locked up, and does not include deals for minor league RFAs Anton Forsberg, Michael Chaput, Alex Broadhurst, Michael Paliotta and T.J. Tynan, each of whom were part of the Calder Cup-winning Lake Erie Monsters. That doesn’t leave a lot of cap space for a Blue Jackets team that needs to improve after finishing with the league’s fourth-worst record.
One thing seems nearly certain, though, and that’s that Hartnell won’t be part of the group that helps turn the Blue Jackets around. The veteran seems ready to move on, and all that’s left is for Columbus to work out a deal with one of Hartnell’s preferred destinations.