The Columbus Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekalainen specifically now face the harsh reality of what happens when you go all-in against pocket aces. The team threw their chips in the middle when they went out and acquired Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid at the deadline, propping up a squad that was already headlined by two star players that didn’t want to negotiate extensions. Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky are likely on their way out of town—not before making a splash in the real estate market though—leaving the team with plenty of questions to answer this summer.
The Blue Jackets now have a handful of players that could land big deals in the summer, and Kekalainen will have to make a decision on who to try and keep around. He wants players that love the city, but it’s not clear if any of the big names are willing to commit to Columbus. That has led to plenty of speculation about how the Blue Jackets will navigate the next few weeks, including from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) who today examined the possibility of a sign-and-trade scenario. That kind of move would require quite a bit of planning between several parties, but could result in the Blue Jackets reclaiming some of those chips that are sitting in piles all around the table.
There is the possibility that several players will be retained by the Blue Jackets. Duchene specifically made quite an impact after a trade from the Ottawa Senators, and experienced the longest playoff run of his career, something he has been chasing for some time. The 28-year old center registered ten points in ten postseason contests, and was routinely one of the best players on the ice for the Blue Jackets. His situation is tricky though, as the Blue Jackets would owe the Senators another first-round pick in 2020 if they re-sign Duchene. That’s a high extra fee to pay on a deal that will already be quite expensive. Duchene is heading into the summer as one of the very best free agents available, and could command a huge salary on a long-term deal.
So who will the team bring back? Will any of the high profile names return, or are the Blue Jackets destined to hand over the offensive keys to Pierre-Luc Dubois and the other young exciting prospects? With a defense headlined by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, the latter of which also needs a new contract as a restricted free agent, do they even need to bring back any of their outgoing players?
Vote below on who you think will be back with the Blue Jackets next season. Select as many names as you wish, and leave a comment to explain your choices!
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