By Sam Bush

Scott Hartnell never wanted to leave Philly, and the Flyers’ former left winger is happy being in Columbus but he is psyched about returning for a game tonight at Wells Fargo Center.

“I’m a pretty emotional person I think,” Hartnell said Wednesday.

“Just to be in that arena and not going to the home dressing room and seeing the trainers and coaches and everyone that I love, it’s for sure going to be tough. Obviously, I had this game circled on my calendar for awhile. Get it over with and enjoy it.”

Hartnell made it clear to that he thinks Flyers coach Craig Berube had a say in his June 23 trade to Columbus that sent him to Columbus for left wing R.J. Umberger and a 2015 fourth-round draft pick.

Hartnell topped 20 goals five times in his seven seasons with the Flyers, but was known to take his share of penalties and at times not be in the best of shape.

“You think of what happened and why me … I’m sure (Chief) had a big part of that or a big opinion in whether to part ways or not,” Hartnell said. “But I’m not going to sit here and worry about it and lose sleep over it, that’s for sure.”

Berube laughed Wednesday when he was asked if he offered an opinion to Hextall before the trade went down.

“I don’t have inputs in trades,” he said. “It’s not my job.”

Berube, however, did say last week that Michael Raffl was the Flyers’ best first-line left wing last season as a rookie even though Hartnell spent most of the season playing with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Also, when Berube was told Wednesday that several Flyers players were saying that Hartnell is missed in the dressing room, the coach started his response by saying, “I don’t know if anything is missed.”

Berube did continue with compliments: “I mean, he’s a good guy. He did a lot for the team and the organization. We all like him from outside of the hockey rink to on the ice. He’s a good player and good in the room. But people move on and that’s the way it is. I have nothing against Hartsy and he’s a friend of mine.”

Hartnell was really in the dumps last June when Flyers GM Ron Hextall told him he had a trade worked out. Hartnell initially planned the veto the deal through the no-move clause in his contract, but after sleeping on it, he changed his mind and accepted moving on.

“Every trade is hard,” Hextall said. “Scott is a popular guy in the (dressing) room. I knew that at the time. It’s not my job to judge popularity contests and make moves based on that.”

Hartnell has had a good start for Columbus with five goals and 14 points in 15 games, while Umberger has struggled early into his second stint as a Flyer. A five-time 20-goal scorer in his first nine NHL seasons, Umberger has one goal and three points in 14 games.

“It was a move that we felt worked for us at the time and I still feel works for us,” Hextall said. “As I told you guys at the time, you look at all the different scenarios – the salary cap and everything else and figure out what’s best for the team. I felt like it’s best and I believe it’s best.”

This deal will help the Flyers cap-wise down the road, as Hartnell’s six-year, $28.7 million contract with a $4.75 million cap hit runs through 2018-19 while Umberger’s five-year, $23 million deal expires after the 2016-17 season.

“Yeah, I get it,” Hartnell said. “I’ve been around the league a long time. I understand that totally (but) it just hurt my ego … I thought I’d play the rest of my career out there and the change in a week was hard to take.”

Hartnell has moved on and says he’s happy with Columbus, yet he misses Philly, especially his ex-teammates.

“Probably the biggest thing (I miss) is not seeing Kimmo [Timonen] every day,” Hartnell said. “For I guess all of my adult life, I’ve seen him every morning, every road trip going for a beer and dinner or movies or whatever we did on the road. There was always that consistent thing that your best friend was there to have. I’m excited to see Kimmo and his family (and) all the young guys.”

He mentioned Wayne Simmonds, Giroux, Voracek and the Schenn brothers, but added “it’s one of those teams where I liked every guy on the team and I definitely kept in touch with a lot of them. At the same time, they’ve moved on and they’re playing well and we’ve kind of struggled here.”

Hartnell has a lot of points, but the Blue Jackets, mired by a ton of injuries, are 4-10-1 and riding an 0-8-1 streak that matches the worst winless stretch in franchise history.

“It’s been a tough go the last couple of weeks,” Hartnell said. “It’s frustrating. Any time a team goes into a funk, the world’s kind of closing in on you. You try harder and things kind of get worse and worse. We’re just looking for a spark to get that first win and get things rolling here in the right direction.”

Hartnell wants to remind the Flyers on Friday night that he’s now the enemy.

“To see how life is on the other side, I’m excited and I can’t wait for it,” Hartnell said. “It’ll be weird for Giroux if I have a chance to hit him. Of course, I’m going to hit him. But we’ll have fun with it, I’m sure”.


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