Blue Jackets News & Rumors: Neal, National TV, Numbers & More

Welcome back to Columbus Blue Jackets News & Rumors. Need evidence that the season is quickly approaching? As of this writing, we are just one week away from the start of the Traverse City Prospect’s Tournament.

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With that in mind, there are no shortage of stories around the Blue Jackets even though camp is still a couple weeks away from starting. We are going to try and answer three big questions for you today.

  • 1. What is James Neal doing at Blue Jackets’ camp?
  • 2. Are the Blue Jackets finally getting respect on the national stage?
  • 3. Which players will feature new numbers on their jersey in 2022-23 for the Blue Jackets?
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Pull up a chair. Grab your beverage of choice and let’s dive right into the news and what it means.

James Neal’s PTO

Once a very hated man within the walls of the Blue Jackets’ locker room, Neal now lands a PTO with them and will attend their training camp. On the surface, this seems surprising. But a deeper look reveals what could be going on.

The general thought was that several young players would compete for the last few roster spots. That is still the case. However PTO’s allow for teams to bring in veteran players that might still have something to offer. At a bare minimum, having Neal in camp tells the young players to not assume they’ve won anything.

Healthy competition is a good thing for teams to have. Although Neal has struggled to stay in the NHL in recent seasons, he could win a job and a contract with the Blue Jackets should he play well. He wasn’t just brought on because it’s a PTO. There is an opportunity for him.

Although the Blue Jackets’ roster is significantly better especially with Johnny Gaudreau on it now, this is not as deep a team as some others in the NHL. Neal would add a veteran presence who can score goals. On a cheap contract, it’s absolutely worth the risk to have him on the roster. He can add value to the top-nine and on the power play.

What will be worth watching is the approach the Blue Jackets decide to take given that there is a logjam at forward going into camp. If a young player is on the bubble, what will they do with them? Do you keep them in the NHL to play a bottom-role? Do they become a healthy scratch? Or do you send them to Cleveland to play top minutes?

Recall the Blue Jackets wanted to demote Cole Sillinger. It never happened. That’s because Sillinger wouldn’t let them. His play dictated that he stay in Columbus all season. The younger players this season need to do the same especially with Neal around.

James Neal Edmonton Oilers
James Neal can win a roster spot at Blue Jackets’ camp. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s an interesting decision to have Neal in camp but you can see why it makes sense. If things don’t work the Blue Jackets can simply release him. If he does perform though, he would get a minimum contract and could be an interesting player early in the season.

The moral for now though? The young players better be ready to go when camp begins.

National TV Respect?

You know the season is close to starting when the national TV outlets announce their TV schedules. However unlike most every season, the Blue Jackets will be shown prominently throughout on both the ESPN networks and Turner.

In all, the Blue Jackets have a total of 10 appearances between ESPN, ESPN+/Hulu and TNT. Their lone appearance on ESPN takes place on Jan 5, 2023 when the Washington Capitals are in town.

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The Blue Jackets will appear twice on TNT. They host the Buffalo Sabres on Dec 7 and then travel to play Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Jan 25.

Their other seven appearances all take place on ESPN+/Hulu. Below is a list of those games.

  • Nov 15 vs. Flyers.
  • Dec 13 at Panthers.
  • Dec 23 at Blackhawks.
  • Dec 27 vs. Sabres.
  • Jan 23 at Flames, Gaudreau’s return to Calgary.
  • Feb 14 vs. Devils.
  • Feb 28 at Sabres.

The Nov 15 game against the Flyers is John Tortorella’s second game back at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets host the Flyers twice in six days including Nov 10.

All three games against the Sabres are on national TV. The old Wednesday Night Rivalry night just won’t go away for these two noted bitter rivals.

Oddly, the games in Finland against the Avalanche do not have a national TV time slot announced. Whether that changes or not is to be determined. But it does seem strange that one of the league’s premier events doesn’t get national TV attention.

Whether it’s the Gaudreau factor or things overall being on the upswing, it’s a breath of fresh air for Blue Jackets’ fans to see their team in the national spotlight on 10 different occasions. This doesn’t count the appearances on national TV in Canada. It’s clear the new TV deal is having a positive effect on the Blue Jackets so far.

Related: Blue Jackets’ Laine Could Score 50 Playing with Gaudreau

New Number Season

The Blue Jackets announced on Wednesday some number changes for eight of their players. Below is a summary of those changes.

  • Gavin Bayreuther will wear 15.
  • Jake Christiansen will wear 23.
  • Vladislav Gavrikov will wear 4.
  • Brendan Gaunce will wear 12.
  • Carson Meyer will wear 72.
  • Matthew Olivier will wear 24.
  • Joona Luoto will wear 46.
  • Erik Gudbranson will wear 44.

Side Dishes

  • Expect the Blue Jackets’ roster for Traverse City to be released in the coming days. This should be the North American debut for Kirill Marchenko.
  • Media day is set for Monday Sept 19. Camp opens two days later on Sept 21 with physicals and fitness testing. Players will hit the ice on Sept 22 with their first preseason games on Sunday Sept 25 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.