Media and fans can speculate all they want, but hearing it from a GM actually puts weight behind it. For roughly a month before the Columbus Blue Jackets season ended it felt like the organization was in for a big offseason. At the end of the season exit interviews, Blue Jackets GM, Jarmo Kekalainen hinted that big changes are coming this summer. What could happen is any one’s guess, so here are my thoughts.
A change in goalie could be in play. Kekalinen spoke as though firing shots at starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who had an awful season, to the tune of 74th in GAA, with 4.23 goals per game and 74th in save percentage at just .876. Kekalinen said he expected the starting goalie to be in the best shape of anyone on the roster as he is the quarterback of the team and because of the demands on the position.
The Blue Jackets dismissed goalie coach coach Many Legacy the same day the relieved head coach Brad Larsen of his duties. Perhaps a new goalie coach could get Merzlikins back on track. But the organization could go out and get a starting goalie.
The organization is in pretty good shape with roughly $16M in cap space and depending who stays and who goes they could have more. The team could very well go out and get a top line center and draft one as well. Let’s sort this out.
A player that had been linked to Columbus is Vancouver Canucks top center T. J. Miller who could come into play once again this offseason. The Blue Jackets have two-first round draft picks and could use the #19 overall pick and package say Emil Bemstrom or Liam Foudy for Miller. If they do and the organization lands a top 3 lottery pick they could draft, Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson all project as top line centers. Adding Miller would buy the Blue Jackets time to develop any player they draft.
Defense wise the Blue Jackets future looks bright. David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, Corson Ceulemans and Stanislav Svozil are among the reasons the Blue Jackets pipeline ranks #3. Four solid defensive players, some of which will start next season in Cleveland with the Monsters and some will make the Blue Jackets opening night roster.
I am not saying the Blue Jackets offseason will look like this, however given his strong wording do not be surprised if when training camp rolls around the Blue Jackets roster looks sort of like this.