After two years serving admirably in a third line role, Markus Nutivaara was called upon to do more for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. After showing some “rover” ability in his sophomore effort, Nuti joined fellow third year player Zach Werenski in being forced by Coach John Tortorella to focus on honing the defensive side of their game.
Another major change was being split from his most common defensive partner, Ryan Murray. With Murray replacing Werenski on the top pair, Nuti got work with defensive stalwart David Savard. Playing a second line role gave him more minutes, but it also saw him start more shifts in the defensive zone. The result? A slight dip in his points and his possession numbers, but still positive numbers in terms of goals and high danger chances allowed (55% and 54.71%, respectively, with Savard).
Sadly, Nutivaara’s postseason met an early end due to a dirty hit from Nikita Kucherov at the end of Game 2 of the Lightning series. Kucherov was suspended for one game, but Nutivaara missed the remaining eight playoff games with a torn left oblique.
With Ryan Murray’s uncertain future here, expect Nutivaara to pick up next year once again in a shutdown pair with Savard.
Markus Nutivaara 2018-19 Stats
Games Played: 80
Time on ice: 17:41
Penalty minutes: 6
Corsi For (Even strength): 48.7%
Games Played: 2
Time on ice: 21:36
Penalty minutes: 0
Corsi For (Even strength): 43.8%
Last Spring, as a pending RFA, Nutivaara signed a four year extension which carried an annual cap hit of $2.7M. Given his growing role with the team, that is a steal. He will be a UFA when the contract expires and still just 28 years old. With the defensive depth on the team, Nutivaara could be a very attractive trade chip to upgrade the top end of the offense. Or the Jackets can just hold on to him and continue to get heavy minutes from a young, cheap player.
It’s hard to pick one here, because Nutivaara had the sort of season that was good because he was NOT noticeable. In no game did he record more than one point. So the high point would be either his only game-winning goal, in a 4-1 win over Dallas in November:
Or his prettiest goal of the season, which came in the finale vs. Ottawa:
I’m still mad about this.
How would you grade Markus Nutivaara’s 2018-19 season?
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