Umberger back to where he got start in NHL
Three days after a trade sent him back to the location of his first three NHL seasons, Plum's R.J. Umberger continues to take stock in the move and the fresh start he have been given.
Umberger started his NHL career in Philadelphia in the 2005-06 season, and he returns to the Flyers after six seasons in Columbus.
Scott Hartnell goes the other direction and joins Columbus after seven seasons in Philly.
“No matter where I was going, it was going to be a surprise,” Umberger said Monday during a conference call with media members posted on the Flyers website.
“I wasn't expecting it to happen (Monday) morning. I was hoping at the draft. But this is definitely a great fit.”
Attempts by the Plum Advance Leader to reach Umberger before Tuesday's deadline were unsuccessful.
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is Friday and Saturday in Philadelphia.
Umberger has three years remaining on a contract extension he signed with Columbus in September 2011.
In addition to Umberger, the Blue Jackets also sent the Flyers their fourth-round pick in next year's draft.
“We would like to thank R.J. for his years of service to our club and extend our best wishes to him and his family,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in an interview Monday with Fox Sports Ohio.
Umberger, who turned 32 on May 3, said he has a lot left to give and is ready to go for his second stint with the Flyers.
“I've always kept myself in great shape,” he said. “I still consider myself pretty young. All my skating tests this year were the fastest in my career. To me, I still have a lot left in the tank.”
Umberger expressed disappointment when he was a healthy scratch several times during the end of the regular season.
He missed the final three games of the regular season and the first game of Columbus' first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins — a 4-3 loss at Consol Energy Center — because of an upper-body injury.
Umberger returned to the lineup in Game 2, and Columbus won 4-3 in double-overtime for the first playoff victory in franchise history.
The Penguins ended up winning the series, 4-2, and Umberger tallied his final point in a Blue Jackets uniform in an overtime victory in Game 4 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
He assisted on the game-winning tally by Nick Foligno 2:49 into OT. It was Umberger's lone point of the series.
Umberger faced his hometown Penguins in the playoffs for the second time.
As a member of the Flyers in 2008, he took on the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Philadelphia was the sixth seed in the conference that year, and it knocked off third-seeded Washington and top-seeded Montreal en route to the matchup with the Penguins.
Pittsburgh won that series, 4-1, and went on to fall to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Umberger tallied 10 goals and added five assists in 17 playoff games that season.
In three seasons with the Flyers to start his NHL career, he scored 49 regular-season goals with 67 assists.
Umberger was traded to the Blue Jackets before the start of the 2008-09 season, and he led Columbus to the NHL playoffs for the first time.
He also scored the franchise's first-ever playoff goal.
Umberger was durable through the first three seasons in Columbus, as he played in all 250 Blue Jackets games from 2008-09 to 2010-11.
In six seasons with Columbus, he was out of the lineup for only 13 games.
Through game six of this year's playoff series with Pittsburgh, Umberger has 183 goals and 203 assists in 703 NHL games.
“R.J. is versatile guy who can play all positions,” Flyers head coach Craig Berube said in an interview with Flyers.nhl.com.
“He's a good penalty killer who skates well. He's a veteran who has been around a long time and knows how to play the game properly. He'll be used in a lot of different areas. I think with our team, it is nice to have a real versatile guy like him.”
Umberger said the Blue Jackets were preparing to go with a number of talented younger players in the lineup.
“It's understandable,” he said. “They've earned the time. I think, on the business side, you understand that and can respect that. It was time to move on to somewhere else and continue my career. It's a fresh start.”
Umberger won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004-05 during that year's NHL lockout.
He had a big year with the Phantoms, scoring 21 goals and adding 44 assists in 80 regular-season games before tallying three goals and seven assists in the playoffs.
When the NHL returned for the 2005-06 campaign, Umberger started with the Phantoms and played eight games — recording three goals and seven assists — before getting called up to the Flyers.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at email@example.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.
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