The news broke late last night, but the move is now official. John Davidson is returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets as president of hockey operations and alternate governor on a five-year contract. The team has also signed general manager Jarmo Kekalainen to a contract extension through the 2024-25 season. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that Davidson had three years remaining on his contract with the New York Rangers, who fired him earlier this year, while Kekalainen was signed through 2022-23 before the extension.
Club president Mike Priest released a statement:
John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen worked tirelessly and effectively together to transform our hockey club from a team with one Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in 12 seasons to one that reached the postseason five times in seven years from 2013-20. This is an important time for our organization and having stability and proven leadership at the top of our hockey operations department is critical for us to do what we want to do, which is bring a Stanley Cup championship to Columbus. Signing Jarmo to an extension and then bringing J.D. back gives us the right people to address the opportunities and challenges before us and we couldn’t be more excited.
Almost exactly two years ago, Davidson resigned his post with the Blue Jackets to chase his dream job with the Rangers. At the time, he explained that a chance to return to New York, where he had spent so much of his playing and broadcasting career was one he “simply could not pass up.” After two relatively successful seasons helping to rebuild the team, he was fired along with general manager Jeff Gorton and head coach David Quinn. At the time of the dismissal, many in the hockey world expressed the notion that Davidson would not go unemployed for long.
So, just two weeks later, Davidson is in charge of an NHL franchise again, returning to Columbus where he spent seven years between 2012-2019. The Blue Jackets are in a period of transition after parting ways with John Tortorella and finishing in last place. Davidson and Kekalainen have a lot of work to do to right the ship, including a few difficult decisions on roster construction. Seth Jones, the team’s best player, is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after next season and will need a huge contract to stick around. Max Domi, Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo, Boone Jenner, and others are also ticketed for UFA status next summer, meaning the next 12 months could see a drastic reshaping of the Blue Jackets roster.