Columbus Blue Jackets: Is RJ Umberger Looking To Go Elsewhere?
This year that award went to winger RJ Umberger. The award was most deserved as Umberger served as the heart and soul of the team in both the good and bad times during the previous season.
Acquired by Columbus in 2008 from the Philadelphia Flyers during the draft, the Ohio State alum was signed to a four-year, $15 million contract, which will expire at the end next season.
Umberger could sign a contract extension as early as this upcoming July, but according to the Columbus Dispatch, the winger is weighing his future with the team.
The 28-year-old said he has plans to meet with his agent in the upcoming days to reflect on the past season, as well as discuss the upcoming years and see what could be done.
The Blue Jackets will clearly look to re-sign Umberger before the final year expires, but Umberger said that the last two seasons have been highly disappointing and "tough to take."
In the 10 years that the Jackets have been in the NHL, they have only made it to the playoffs once, which was Umberger's first year in Columbus, but that ended quickly in a four-game sweep to the Detroit Red Wings.
With how the Blue Jackets have been playing in recent years, Umberger said he may think twice when it comes to signing an extension.
"That's an important question for me to ask myself," he said. "It's something I need to consider. You only have so many years to play this game. I'm entering the stage of my career where these are the prime years. It's important to me."
Umberger, like all hockey players, wants to be part of a winning team, and he went on to say that he loves this city and this team and wants to be one of the reasons why the Blue Jackets start winning.
"It's like when (Rick) Nash signed his extension (in July 2009), the goal was to let people know that this is where he wants to be and where he wants to win. I feel that way about it, too."
At the end of the season, general manager Scott Howson and head coach Scott Arniel held a meeting with players where they stated that the front office wants a winner now.
The team is willing to deal away its top-10 draft pick in June for immediate help and has a plan for an active free agency period.
Umberger said that what was said at the meetings inspired him, but he wants to wait to see how the front office comes through with their promise before he makes any decisions.
"I'd like to see how the summer plays out. From the end-of-the-year meetings (with Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel), I know what they expect to do. They said they're going to be active. But you want to see something done to feel better about the situation."
The fact that one of the team's best leaders and players is not guaranteed to stay for the long haul should be enough motivation for the Blue Jackets front office to bring in immediate help to make the team a contender.
A loss of a player like Umberger could deal a lethal blow to a team that is ready to win and ready to make the Blue Jackets relevant again.
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