The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Scott Hartnell from the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, trading him for R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick in 2015. The Blue Jackets announced the trade on Monday.
Umberger was open about wanting out of Columbus and so the Jackets went to work on finding a new home for him and his $4.6 million cap hit over the next three seasons. Getting Hartnell from Philly in the deal didn't seem all that likely.
"We are proud and excited to welcome Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets as he is the epitome of the type of player we want in our organization," Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He is a talented, tough, hard-working player who brings valuable experience and leadership on and off the ice. We believe he will fit in very well with our group and be an important part of our team moving forward. We would also like to thank R.J. for his years of service to our club and extend our best wishes to him and his family."
In one area it makes a lot of sense: Hartnell is signed for the next five seasons with a cap hit of $4.75 million, not a tremendous difference in terms of the money obligation. Beyond that, though, you have to like this deal from Columbus' perspective.
Frankly, both players underwhelmed a bit last season but Umberger perhaps a bit more than Hartnell. He was a scratch on a couple of nights for coach Todd Richards and averaged just 12:47 per game in four postseason appearances. His role diminished and so did production but he did still finish with 18 goals and 16 assists. Now the 32-year-old returns to Philadelphia where his career began.
Hartnell was a little better with 20 goals and 32 assists last season in Philadelphia. Only a few days older than Umberger, Hartnell has had the better career season as he finished with 37 goals and 30 assists in 2011-12 when he was an All-Star for the Flyers.
For Ron Hextall, this is the first major move of his tenure as the Flyers GM and frankly, it doesn't look a ton different than something Paul Holmgren would have done. On the surface it seems as though the Jackets got the better player here and the difference feels like it should be more than a fourth-round pick. It's hard to see what Hextall was going for here, especially with a deal inside the division.
Making it look that much worse for the Flyers is that the Jackets were considering a buyout of Umberger's contract if they couldn't trade him. Given his desire to be out of Columbus, that made sense. So not only did the Kekalainen find a trade partner, but he got the better player out of the deal.
However this delivers on an early promise of this offseason; it's going to be busy.