The Blue Jackets’ offseason roster tweaks could include one of the club’s longest-tenured players being traded. Sources have told The Dispatch that R.J. Umberger’s end-of-season meeting with Blue Jackets management and coaches ended with a mutual agreement that Umberger would go on the trading block this summer. Umberger, who was a healthy scratch in four late-season games, requested the trade, the sources said. He declined to comment when reached by The Dispatch on Friday. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen, reached at the world championships in Belarus, also declined to comment. Umberger, who is signed through the 2016-17 season at a $4.6 million salary-cap hit, has a no-trade clause in his contract through June 14. On June 15, the full no-trade clause becomes a limited clause, and Umberger will provide the Blue Jackets with 10 NHL clubs to which he would not approve a trade.That would leave 19 teams. Umberger was angered and hurt late in the regular season when he was made a healthy scratch four times in a seven-game stretch while the Blue Jackets were fighting for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Coach Todd Richards never said specifically why he was scratching Umberger, only that he wanted to play a faster, more physical game and had other players — Corey Tropp, specifically — who were playing more to his liking. “I feel like I’ve been through a lot here with this team,” Umberger said at the time. “These are the kind of games I’ve always dreamed about playing here, so to not be out there is hard to take.” Kekalainen said days after the Blue Jackets were eliminated from the playoffs by Pittsburgh in the first round that Richards and his assistants would be signed to long-term contract extensions this summer. By all accounts, Richards and Umberger never let the situation become personal or unprofessional, but the prospects of playing out his contract in Columbus under Richards might not be attractive to Umberger. Then again, it might not be easy for the Blue Jackets to trade Umberger, given his contract. After averaging 23 goals and 50 points in his first four seasons with the Blue Jackets, he has only 26 goals and 52 points in his past 122 games.At 32, he’s not getting any quicker, but Umberger has a reputation for coming up big in big games, such as the playoffs. What could help the Blue Jackets is all the upheaval across the league this summer. San Jose, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Washington — powerhouse clubs in recent years — are facing sweeping changes after disappointing seasons. Ottawa is looking to make changes, too, after center Jason Spezza requested a trade. It’s unlikely the Blue Jackets would opt to buy out the remaining three years on Umberger’s contract. That would cost them roughly $1.55 million per season for the next six years.
R.J. Umberger demands a trade from Blue Jackets
Columbus Dispatch | May 18