Save for an unbroken right index finger, feisty forward Matt Calvert possesses all the key attributes befitting a model Blue Jacket.
Calvert, 23, a relentless forechecker who is rarely outworked, was rewarded for a breakout season yesterday when the Jackets announced they signed him to a two-year contract extension.
“He can beat you with his skill game, but he’s also a pretty tenacious checker, too,” coach Todd Richards said. “He has the ability to get under a player’s skin because he can play a fast game and a physical game. He’s not a pounder by any means, but he can still check well.”
The deal will pay Calvert $1.975 million through the end of the 2014-15 season. He could have become a restricted free agent after the season.
“You could probably go around to each team, and there are certain guys you would take off of each if you could take a player,” Richards said. “Matty is probably a guy that you look at, based on what he’s done this year and the way that he’s played this style.”
After spending most of last season in the American Hockey League, Calvert, who is 5 feet 10 and 187 pounds, had nine goals and seven assists and solidified his standing as an everyday, two-way forward in 42 games for the Jackets before suffering a broken finger while blocking a shot on Thursday night during a 2-1 loss at the Los Angeles Kings.
“That’s how I’ve always played since day one,” Calvert said. “I was really small growing up and had a lot of adversity and was never expected to make it to even junior hockey. I think that’s kind of given me a chip on my shoulder and it makes me want to go and prove myself every night.”
Calvert will miss the final two games of the regular season but could return in the playoffs if the Blue Jackets qualify.
“It’s where I want to be,” Calvert said of Columbus. “To know I’m going to be here for the next two years is real exciting. We’re building something special here.”
Calvert was selected by the Blue Jackets in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and signed a two-way, entry-level contract in March 2010. He scored 11 goals in his first 25 NHL games in 2010-11, the most by a rookie since Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin had 15 in his first 25 games in 2006.
Step by step
Defenseman Ryan Murray participated in an optional skate with 10 other Blue Jackets yesterday, marking the first time the No. 2 overall pick of last year’s draft has skated with a large group of current Jackets.
“Pretty light stuff, but I can shoot now, slap shots and wrist shots and everything,” said Murray, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in November and underwent season-ending surgery in January.
Murray has a follow-up appointment at the Cleveland Clinic next week and expects to be ready for contact by the time development camp begins in July.
“I’m right on track,” Murray said. “There’s really not much that I can’t do now. It’s just strengthening and range of motion and all that.”
Center Artem Anisimov (concussion) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (lower body) are not expected to play on Thursday night against Dallas, Richards said.