NHL Notebook: Mike Babcock steps down as Columbus Blue Jackets head coach and Jujhar Khaira signs with Minnesota Wild
2 months ago
Mike Bacock’s career in Columbus is over before a single puck has dropped.
Babcock resigned Sunday afternoon as the Columbus Blue Jackets head coach after becoming the subject of an investigation launched by the NHL Players Association into alleged privacy invasion.
In a podcast episode of Spittin’ Chiclets earlier this week, retired NHL player Paul Bissonnette revealed that a Blue Jackets player had informed him about a request from Babcock asking to see the photos on various player’s cell phones.
Babcock acknowledged the allegations by saying that he would ask members of the organization to share family photos to get to know them better. Boone Jenner, Columbus’ team captain, also added to the statement in support, expressing he thought it was a good way for the two to build a relationship.
The incident led the NHLPA to launch an investigation on September 12th, which has now been concluded, revealing that although some players were comfortable with the exchange, numerous younger players were not. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported earlier Sunday confirming the release, stating there is “no path for Babcock to continue as coach.”
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Sunday part of the reason the course appeared to change in the investigation was that some of Columbus’ younger players “said they weren’t comfortable with what had occurred.”
Friedman, citing multiple sources, reported that “one of the most serious concerns was a meeting that occurred away from team facilities that included ‘several minutes’ of looking through a phone.” This, he added, “was beyond the scope of what was initially understood to have occurred.”
An official statement from the Blue Jackets organization was released Sunday afternoon, wherein the team said the decision was “difficult” but necessary to continue the team’s focus on the upcoming season.
“Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction,” Babcock said.
“While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”
Columbus’ general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, also announced in the statement that associate coach Pascal Vincent would be taking over head coaching duties, agreeing to a two-year contract.
“Pascal Vincent is an outstanding coach,” said Kekalainen.
“He knows our players and organization and is respected by everyone here. He was a strong candidate for our head coaching position several months ago and is in the best position to help us navigate this change as we begin camp and lead our team moving forward.”
Babcock initially took over head coaching duties on July 1st, inking a two-year contract worth a total of $8 million. Babcock previously was the head coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs but was let go 23 games into the 2019-20 season. After his release, allegations emerged regarding a toxic environment associated with Babcock, with several players voicing their concerns.
Jujhar Khaira signs a one-year deal with Minnesota Wild
Former Edmonton Oiler Jujhar Khaira has officially signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $775,000 with the Minnesota Wild.
The other half of the deal will see the forward earning $300,000 if he is assigned to the American Hockey League at any point in the season.
The six-foot-four forward was originally the Oilers third-round pick (63rd overall) in the 2012 draft class — one that included Nail Yakupov. He joined the team part-time for two years, starting in 2015-16, and eventually secured a full-time roster spot in 2017-18. Over the course of six years with the Oilers, Khaira scored 24 goals and 63 points over 258 games while establishing himself as a dependable fourth-line centre. He became a consistent presence in 2020 and 2021 when Edmonton embarked on their playoff pursuits.
In the summer of 2021, he chose to say goodbye to the Oilers organization by signing with the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent. He spent two years in Windy City, scoring just nine goals and 17 points over 78 games.
With their latest signing of Khaira, the Wild now hold $868,000 in cap space, according to PuckPedia, and still have defenceman Calen Addison left to sign.
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