On the first day of NHL free agency, the Columbus Blue Jackets lost Derek MacKenzie and Blake Comeau. It was a decidedly disappointing day for Jackets fans yesterday. Even though the Jackets were not expected to make any big signings or anything, all the Blue Jackets news that we got was about losing someone. Granted, Mackenzie and Comeau were far from stars for the Jackets this year, but there wasn’t a lot of “good” or exciting news going around.
First, Derek MacKenzie. As an unrestricted free agent, MacKenzie could sign with any team that sent him an offer he liked. At 33 years old, MacKenzie was probably just looking for a team that would take him for more than one or two years, and he found that in the Florida Panthers. He signed a three-year, $3.9 million with Florida. That was a bit of an upgrade from his contract with the Jackets, where he made $1,000,000 a year. That number is now $1,300,000 a year.
Of the two, MacKenzie is likely to be the one more people are sorry to see go. Although MacKenzie may not have put up the best numbers on the team, he has been playing in Columbus for seven seasons. With a team as young as the Jackets are, MacKenzie was one of very few players who has been a part of the franchise for a long time. That, though, is also part of why they didn’t resign him. When Jarmo Kekalainen joined the Blue Jackets organization as the new GM, it was seen as a new era of Jackets hockey. MacKenzie was part of the old generation.
Then, there’s Blake Comeau. Comeau was traded to the Jackets from the Calgary Flames just before the 2013 trade deadline. The only time he really made an impact with Columbus fans was when he got suspended. Comeau was known for his big hits and sometimes questionable plays. What he wasn’t known for was production. I barely even heard his name much around Columbus. Safe to say he isn’t a big loss.The only reason Jackets fans will feel Comeau’s loss is because of who he signed with. He went to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is basically a desertion to enemy camp. The Penguins are fast becoming the Jackets biggest rival, and since the two cities are only 185 miles apart, it is only going to heat up. It wouldn’t surprise me if Comeau doesn’t receive the warmest welcome when he returns to Nationwide Arena next season.
Overall, MacKenzie and Comeau weren’t crucial parts of the Jackets effort this season, and club management let them go. Goodbye Derek and Blake. It’s been fun.