The Columbus Blue Jackets have brought back a former top prospect, signing Marko Dano to a one-year two-way contract. Dano was originally selected 27th overall by the Blue Jackets in 2013, but has bounced around the league since. The 24-year old did not receive a qualifying offer from the Winnipeg Jets this summer and became an unrestricted free agent. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that the deal carries an $800K salary at the NHL level.
Dano came into the NHL with the Blue Jackets in 2014-15 with all the hype of a first-round selection and actually performed up to the expectations for a little while. In that first season he recorded 21 points in 35 games and looked like he was going to grow into a legitimate option for their top-six. That summer however the Blue Jackets were given an opportunity to acquire Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks—who had just put up 52 points in the regular season and been a dominant playoff force on the Stanley Cup winner—so off went Dano along with Artem Anisimov to the champions. His time in Chicago was brief and less than a year later he ended up in another trade to Winnipeg in order for the Blackhawks to reacquire Andrew Ladd.
The last several years in Winnipeg (and a short stint with the Colorado Avalanche between waiver claims) have not gone well, leaving Dano somewhere between prospect and player, looking for a fresh start. He won’t turn 25 until the end of November, but there is a long way to go for the Austrian forward before he becomes an impact NHL player. His 30 points in 51 AHL games last season was a good start—at least in terms of consistent playing time—but he’ll need to show more than that to turn his career around.
The Blue Jackets of course are looking for help up front following an offseason that saw Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel all depart in unrestricted free agency. The team brought Gustav Nyquist in to replace some of that offense, but will certainly have opportunity for players like Dano to take advantage of. He’ll need to clear waivers again in order to be sent to the minor leagues.