June 14, 2004; UPDATED: June 16, 2004
Umberger Signs with Philly
Former OSU star finally inks NHL deal

Former Ohio State forward R.J. Umberger signed with Philadelphia on Wednesday, a move that agent Brian Lawton had confirmed with Inside College Hockey on Monday afternoon.

"It was a long year for him not playing," Lawton said. "Sometimes you've got to stand by your principles."

Umberger was selected by Vancouver in the first round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and left Ohio State just prior to the start of the 2003-04 season with the intention of signing with the Canucks. The two sides couldn’t come to terms on a contract agreement, however, forcing the Pittsburgh native to sit out the entire year.

As part of the Canucks’ deadline day trade for veteran winger Martin Rucinsky, Umberger’s rights were dealt to the New York Rangers. The Rangers elected not to sign Umberger and he became a free agent June 1.

"Umberger is very highly skilled, a top-end offensive player," said Flyers general manager Bob Clarke. "Certainly like most young players, he has some defensive stuff to work on, but we think that he has a chance to be a really good National Hockey League player."

Lawton indicated that more than half the teams in the league expressed interest in signing Umberger, who ultimately narrowed his options to Philadelphia and Toronto. Lawton also said that Umberger will receive the maximum allowed under the NHL’s rookie salary cap, plus bonuses that could bring his annual salary to about $1.5 million.

The 6-2, 200-pound Umberger scored 58 goals and 71 assists in 112 career games at Ohio State. He was one of 10 finalists for the 2003 Hobey Baker Award and was named to the American Hockey Coaches Association West All-American second team that same season. He also captured the CCHA Rookie of the Year Award in 2001.

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