The Columbus Blue Jackets went all-in at the trade deadline this season by adding several pending unrestricted free agents in Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. The reasoning was likely in part due to the fact that Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, two of the team’s best players, are also heading to free agency and had already turned down extension talks. GM Jarmo Kekalainen knew this was his last shot with those two on the roster and took it, but now faces an offseason where he will watch several top names depart. If Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and others do leave, he’s not losing sleep over it. In conversation with Tom Reed of The Athletic (subscription required) Kekalainen explained what he’s looking for out of his players:
I think it’s important moving forward that we have guys who are proud to be Blue Jackets, proud to be living in Columbus and loving it here. It’s really important that they bleed blue or whatever you want to call it. … Guys who want to be here are going to be here and the guys who don’t want to be here — good luck.
Kekalainen admitted that he would “do it in a second again” but the Blue Jackets now face the reality that their team will look very different come September. That might not be the end of them though, as there are several bright spots still on the roster. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski still represent two of the game’s top young defensemen, and players like Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexandre Texier have proven they are capable of providing real contributions at the NHL level. Not to mention the likes of Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand who are still in their mid-twenties and under contract for reasonable amounts. As always, Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets will be one of the most interesting teams in the league to watch this offseason as they try to move on from this chapter of their history.
- Speaking of moving on, Washington Capitals forward Riley Barber appears to be ready to do just that. Barber spoke to J.J. Regan of NBC Sports Washington, and explained that given his lack of opportunity in Washington he isn’t likely to return to the organization next season. The 25-year old is set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer after playing just three NHL games since signing with the team in 2015, but is coming off an impressive 60-point season in the AHL.
- Marcus Davidsson was selected 37th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2017 but they have been happy so far to let him continue to develop in Sweden. That doesn’t appear to be changing, as Davidsson has signed a two-year deal to remain in the SHL, this time with the Vaxjo Lakers. The 20-year old center could actually become an unrestricted free agent if the Sabres don’t sign him by June 1st, 2021.