Over the weekend, Columbus Blue Jackets fans got the news that R.J. Umberger, one of their longest-tenured players on the roster, and former Ohio State Buckeye, will likely not be in a Blue Jackets uniform next season. As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, management and Umberger agreed during his exit interview that a trade should be facilitated during the offseason.
Umberger is signed through the 2016-17 season at a $4.6 million salary cap hit and has a full no-trade clause until June 14. This no-trade clause then turns into a limited trade clause, and Umberger will provide the Blue Jackets a list of 10 teams he does not wish to be traded to, leaving the Blue Jackets with 19 teams to work with.
Umberger finished the regular season with 18G 16A (34 points), but was at odds with Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards after he was scratched four times in a seven-game stretch late in the season. According to Richards, he wanted a faster, harder-hitting player in the lineup, and had several players that fit that bill better than Umberger.
A 34-point season from a player making the salary of a 50+ point player will make Umberger a difficult player for the Blue Jackets to move, but he has proven himself a valuable veteran presence for a young, rebuilding team in Columbus. Umberger was the type of acquisition the Blue Jackets needed back in 2008; a former Ohio State player fresh off a 50-point season with the Flyers. He would go on to have two more 50+ point seasons with the Jackets, the pinnacle being 2010-11, where he finished with 57 points.
With other players like Ryan Johansen, Matt Calvert, and Cam Atkinson taking the spotlight in Columbus over the last two seasons, Umberger has slowly become a forgotten player on the team. With the infusion of young talent on the Blue Jackets roster, and the Vezina-winning performance of Sergei Bobrovsky last year, the Blue Jackets no longer need to play the Ohio State card with Umberger to sell tickets. For the most part, Umberger’s performance was overshadowed by the aforementioned players this season.
During the playoffs, the Blue Jackets had the offensive depth to insert other players in the lineup that could bring a faster and more physical presence into the lineup than Umberger could provide. While his ability to get in front of the net made Umberger a valuable asset on the power play, $4.6 million is a lot of cap space to get a butt in the goalies face.
Fortunately for Umberger and Blue Jackets fans, the last memory of #18 this season will be the blocked shot in overtime of Game 4 that led to Nick Foligno‘s thrilling overtime goal. Much like his tenure with the Blue Jackets, Umberger’s contribution was overshadowed by the performance of another player, but without Umberger, the Jackets do not win that game.