Andrew Bodnarchuk has been around a lot of championship celebrations in recent years, and now the Blue Jackets are hoping he can do the same in Cleveland and, eventually, Columbus.
The Jackets have signed the 5-foot-10, 189-pound defenseman to a one-year, two-way contract. He will likely play with the Lake Erie Monsters this season, though he does have a few games' worth of NHL experience and has spent time with two Stanley Cup winners.
Also signed and slated to join Bodnarchuk in Cleveland are fellow defensemen Jaime Sifers and John Ramage, and rugged winger Brett Gallant.
Bodnarchuk and his Manchester Monarch teammates just hoisted the AHL's Calder Cup a few weeks ago (with Bodnarchuk notching an assist on the championship-clinching goal in Game 5 against the Utica Comets). Prior to that, he was a taxi squad guy with the L.A. Kings when they won a title in 2014, and he played a similar role in the Boston organization when they won it all in 2011.
You're obviously not getting a lot of size in a guy like Bodnarchuk, but you do get a decent set of puck-moving skills, some notable offensive upside at the AHL level (14 points in 19 playoff games this past postseason), and a good dose of grit, hustle and leadership. It wouldn't be at all surprising for him to be wearing an "A" this season for the Monsters.
In his AHL career, Bodnarchuk has registered 30 goals, 104 assists and 469 PIMs (not to mention a plus-63 rating) in 473 games with the Providence Bruins and the Monarchs. He was originally a fifth-round draft choice of the Bruins in 2006 in the midst of a sparkling career as captain of the Halifax Mooseheads (a fact not lost on Cannon Managing Editor and Halifax resident Mike MacLean).
As for Sifers, he's a career minor-leaguer who played last season in Springfield (3-19-22 and 82 PIMs in 76 games) after three seasons in Germany. Before that he was with Toronto, Houston and Chicago of the AHL following four years at the University of Vermont (where in 2006 he was nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, given annually to college hockey's finest citizen...awwwww.)
The 24-year-old Ramage is also a former college defenseman, having served as captain and playing four years at Wisconsin. He has played two seasons at the AHL level: One at Abbotsford and last year with Adirondack, where he posted a 3-12-15 line with 81 PIMs. The book on the 6-foot, 205-pound Ramage is that he's physical and doesn't mind making big hits. Here, in fact, is a clip of him destroying his new Lake Erie teammate, Seth Ambroz, back in college.
Gallant is an interesting signing. He has been one of the AHL's most feared fighters the last several seasons in the Islanders' organization, racking up 247 PIMs last year and a reputation as being, well, borderline crazy. Pair him with big rookie d-man Oleg Yevenko and it seems clear few people will be messing with the Monsters' young forwards this coming season.
Don't look now, but the Blue Jackets are quietly building a solid AHL roster up in Cleveland...