Since breaking into the NHL four years ago, Matt Calvert has known only one team – and in his mind, that team was the only option going forward.
Calvert, a fifth-round draft pick of the Blue Jackets in 2008, is a proud product of the organization’s developmental system. A junior hockey standout for his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Calvert made his pro debut in 2010-11 with the Springfield Falcons and, as he only knows how to do, rolled up his sleeves and went to work.
One of the more indelible memories of Calvert’s early days in the NHL was the hat trick he scored against Arizona in his rookie year. Three years later, he added another milestone moment when he scored the first game-winning playoff goal in franchise history, a double-overtime put-back that won Game 2 against the Penguins and leveled the series on the road.
Earlier this week, he made sure that he’d have the opportunity to keep moving forward with the Jackets, signing a three-year deal worth a total of $6.6 million and tying him to the club through 2018.
“I’ve grown up in this organization, and that’s great,” Calvert told BlueJackets.com. “Not many players here have done that. I’m lucky to have guys like Atkinson, Johansen, Prout, Savard, you name it...all in the same boat as I am. That’s a big thing when you’re building a winning team, that we all play together, grow together and move up together.
MATT CALVERT RE-SIGNED
“We’re all good friends now. We’ve been through a lot together, and we’ve seen each other grow up in the Blue Jackets system, too.”
Calvert is one of their key pieces, no doubt about it, and he figures to play a key role moving forward as the Blue Jackets look to take the next step. After a 15-1-1 finish to a 2014-15 season that they’d much rather forget than remember, the Blue Jackets know the upcoming season is perhaps their most important one to date.
They’ve bulked up in the offseason, literally and figuratively, adding Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks in a shocking blockbuster deal on the eve of free agency, and bringing in veteran center Gregory Campbell to anchor the fourth line.
Excitement and anticipation have been in the Columbus air for some time, and it’s not just the fans – the players feel it, too, with training camp two months away.
“We lost a few forwards in that deal, but getting a guy like Brandon Saad is huge for us, just huge,” Calvert said. “With his experience alone and winning two Stanley Cups in the last three years at 22 years old, we can learn a lot from him and he’s going to be a big addition.
“It’s got our fans excited, it’s got me and my teammates excited, and a lot of people around the league are talking about it.”
A significant part of Calvert’s excitement stems from having another go-round with this core group. With a new captain in Nick Foligno and a soon-to-be-named leadership group in place, there’s the feeling of renewed energy despite most of the pieces remaining intact.
They were dangerously close to the dance in 2012-13, bowed out perhaps too early in 2013-14 and dug themselves an early hole in 2014-15 – so it’s safe to say the collective hunger has never been stronger as a new season awaits.
And that’s been the directive from Blue Jackets management, Calvert said: come ready for camp, come hungry, and be prepared to get off to a fast start.
“I love these guys,” Calvert said. “I feel so comfortable with them and I couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates to play with every single night. It’s going to be an exciting year for all of us and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I think we can make some noise, I really do. The possibilities are endless. We’ve got to come together this year. We’re all frustrated and disappointed after last year and we have something to prove.”