The Blue Jackets ranked 25th in the NHL in scoring last season, and they have yet to extend a contract offer to Vinny Prospal, their leading scorer. What an interesting nondevelopment. Earlier this week, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he has not yet decided whether there will be an offer. He did not expand much on that statement, but the obvious inference is that the Blue Jackets do not think Prospal is a critical piece. If they did, they would be negotiating. Generally speaking, Jackets supporters are at least puzzled by the handling of Prospal, who is one of their favorites. He shined in dark times. Former general manager Scott Howson signed Prospal to a free-agent contract on July 23, 2011, after Kristian Huselius suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a weight-lifting mishap. Prospal plugged a hole on a team that was supposed to contend for the playoffs. Then, James Wisniewski was bludgeoned with one of the least judicious suspensions in sports history, Jeff Carter poisoned the locker room and Rick Nash asked for a trade. Kaboom. Prospal soldiered on through this smoky crater. He became a fan darling when he questioned his teammates’ desire and castigated them for their poor work ethic. Those were unsettled times, when leadership was lacking behind the bench and Carter was still hanging around. Prospal, at least, provided a keel — and he performed, as if ageless. Howson rewarded Prospal with a one-year contract extension just before the 2012 trade deadline. At the time, Howson said Prospal would have a job in the front office upon retirement. If this “gentlemen’s agreement” was not a violation of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement, it was close. As the Blue Jackets tore up the coaching staff and turned over the hockey operations department, Prospal continued soldiering. Last season, he provided offensive punch on a largely punchless team that rode its defense and goaltending to within a tiebreaker of a playoff spot. He cemented his bond with Jackets fans when, during a March game at Detroit, he broke from a scuffle with Justin Abdelkader and pointed at the scoreboard. Prospal has played 130 games, without missing one, for the Blue Jackets. In that span he was their leading scorer with 28 goals and 57 assists. The fans love him. It can even be argued that the Jackets need him, given their overload of right wingers and relative need for left wingers. So, what gives?
Fan favorite Prospal may no longer fit with Jackets
Columbus Dispatch | Jul 12