COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 15: Vinny Prospal #22 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates a second period goal during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Nationwide Arena on December 15, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Color me surprised when I received an email from Blue Jackets PR this morning, with the words "Columbus Blue Jackets Sign Left Win..." visible on my Blackberry. My first thought was that maybe we signed a prospect to his entry level deal. I opened up the email, and there was the rest of the headline- "...ger Vinny Prospal to One-Year Contract Extension".
I think this is one of those transactions that has various layers. The first of which is of course his on-ice performance. Though Prospal is in a bit of a slump at the moment, he was at or near the top of the Jackets' scoring charts all season. The second, and most important, is his contributions off the ice. Vinny is a veteran player who will take his teammates to task if they aren't carrying their weight. He's got playoff experience, and he's a player who absolutely loves the game. You see this every time he scores a goal.
A third layer, reported by Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch, is that there is a "gentleman's agreement" between Prospal and the organization that will see Vinny take a job within the organization when his playing days are over. At a time when the public image of the Jackets was at an all-time low, this signing gives a boost to how the team looks to those outside of the city and organization. Vinny is willing to commit to living in the city long-term, as have many other former Jackets who return to Columbus after their playing days are over. Andrew Cassels and Freddy Modin come to mind.
The contract itself is valued at $2.5 million. This is excellent value for a 40-50 point player who's main objective is to mentor the young forwards and be a positive voice in the room.
This deal will be criticized by those who are committed to the "nuclear" option of blowing the team up at the trade deadline, as Prospal was arguably the team's most tradeable asset. Before this signing, he was a UFA-to-be, coming off a decent year offensively on a poor team. It was obviously determined that his value to the team both on and off the ice was far higher than whatever they were able to receive back in a potential trade. I'm sure that GM Scott Howson put the feelers out among his GM brethren to gauge what kind of return he could expect for Vinny, and was likely not impressed by what he was hearing.
Regardless of what happens to the other players on the roster before the deadline, Prospal is a part of the core in the short term, and will be a great addition to the organization from a management/coaching/scouting perspective.
If nothing else, there's no player in the NHL who I love to see score a goal more than Vinny.