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Fresh Start For Foligno

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Nick Foligno was a bit shocked when his younger brother, Marcus, approached him during their friends’ wedding and told him he had been traded.

It was a regular Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, N.Y. for the Folignos, who weren’t necessarily thinking about July 1 and the opening of NHL free agency – but Nick was soon contacted by the Ottawa Senators to let him know he was headed to the Blue Jackets to begin the next chapter of his career.

While initially difficult to receive the news of a trade (the first of his life), Foligno knows well that he will be given the opportunity to play a larger role in Columbus and be counted on as an impact player for the Blue Jackets.

That chance was born directly from a Canada Day trade which sent blue liner Marc Methot to his hometown Senators, fulfilling needs for both clubs involved. The deal came together rather quickly, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said, as much of the legwork had been completed in discussions dating back over a week.

“We got into free agency a little bit and we decided now was the time to pull the trigger,” Howson said. “We phoned Ottawa (on Sunday) and they were willing to do it right away. We had talked a lot about it before so the decision was made very quickly.

“We’re excited about Nick. He’s a versatile forward coming off a career year. Where he fits will be up to him, but certainly we see him really contributing. He’ll increase our competitive level and he can play virtually every forward position.”

New Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (right) celebrates with former Ottawa Senators teammate Daniel Alfredsson (left).

Versatility is a key attribute to Foligno’s game, but the 24-year-old is coming off a career-best year in 2011-12, scoring 15 goals and 47 total points. After bouncing around between the second and third lines in Ottawa, new head coach Paul MacLean entrusted Foligno with more ice time and responsibility but never really had the chance to lock down a top-six spot.

As the Senators made their playoff push in the spring, not much changed in terms of ice time and Foligno’s role, but in making the move to Columbus, he comes to a team that will welcome his skillset with open and arms and rely on his durability.

“There are going to be some ups and downs, but I’m definitely looking at myself to fill in that offensive role and be a contributor on a nightly basis, and be a solid all-around player,” Foligno said. “It’s definitely something I pride myself on and want to be able to do. Hopefully, surrounded by the right guys, I can bring that to the team.

“The opportunities you get on the ice and situations you’re put in are also marked by your play. You have to gain your coach’s trust and that’s what I’m going to try and do when I get there, as I’m sure every guy is.”

As a young player who came up through the USA Hockey system and has represented his country on two occasions, Foligno is no stranger to Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson. The two were teammates at the 2009 and 2010 IIHF World Hockey Championships, and have known each other since they were hockey-playing teenagers.

The Blue Jackets connections don’t stop there for Foligno. Several current players reached out to him shortly after the deal was announced and welcomed him to the team, giving him even more confidence that he’s landed in a good spot.

“I can’t say enough about how happy I am about the opportunity I’m getting here in Columbus,” Foligno said. “(Johnson) is a great talent and a good friend. I got to know him at a young age, and I’m sure I’ll get in touch with him in the next little while here.

“It’s nice to see familiar faces. I know Derek MacKenzie, and I got a nice text from James Wisniewski, as well. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the guys there, getting this team started off on the right foot and try to get back to winning ways.”

The next step for Foligno is to get a contract signed with the Blue Jackets. Foligno earned a $1.55 million salary and carried a cap hit of $1.2 million with the Senators in 2011-12, but as of July 1, he became a restricted free agent and Columbus holds his rights.

It is still early in the process and the trade is still fresh for Foligno, but getting a deal done with the Blue Jackets rests atop his list of priorities.

“I haven’t heard anything yet, but I’m sure that will take place in the next couple weeks here,” Foligno said. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting something done soon. My wife and I will try to go (to Columbus) and get our bearings with how everything works down there in the next little while.

“We haven’t spoken to the team about all that yet, but I know we’re both interested in getting down there and figuring out where to live. We’re definitely looking forward to it and to see all that Columbus has to offer.”


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