COLUMBUS OH - FEBRUARY 05: Derek MacKenzie #24 of the Columbus Blue Jackets can't keep the puck on his stick while playing the Edmonton Oilers at Nationwide Arena on February 5 2011 in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Dispatch's Aaron Portzline has reported via twitter that the team has reached a new deal with pending UFA Derek MacKenzie, pending a physical. The journeyman forward had been making $600,000 this season, so I would expect a new deal in the $750,000-800,000 range. The deal would also mean that the club would be down to three "major" pending RFAs - Jared Boll, Nikita Nikitin, and Shawn Hunwick.
The checking forward was a major part of the team's PK and defensive zone starts, but missed the last 16 games of the regular season with a concussion.
MacKenzie has always been known as a "heart and soul" guy both in Columbus and Atlanta who was willing to put it all on the ice whenever he had the opportunity. When 97.1's Lori Schmidt and I interviewed him at the end of the season, he said he was medically cleared to play once again, so I wouldn't anticipate any issues with his upcoming physical.
More importantly, though, was the way he treated the idea of coming back to Columbus. Enthusiastic and hopeful, he set his jaw just a bit when he said, "I want to finish the job here."
Sports is an inherently unfair business. Thousands compete for a handful of jobs, and once you make it, only a fraction will ever win a championship.
Despite that, I can't help but think that MacKenzie's determination and character makes him the exact sort of player who deserves to win a championship in his career - and exactly the sort of guy that teams like Boston, New Jersey, and Detroit have built their franchises upon.
Here's hoping that he has the opportunity to finish what he started with the Blue Jackets.