First a congratulations go out to the Tampa Bay Lightning for winning back-to back Stanley Cups. With that, the Columbus Blue Jackets offseason now begins with some questions and some clues as to how President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen will navigate in the coming days, weeks and months.
One nice thing that the Columbus Blue Jackets have done is fill out newly named head coach Brad Larsen’s coaching staff. Sylvain Lefebvre and Pascal Vincent have been named assistants. Filling out the staff allowed for more time to plot for the 2021 NHL Draft including who they will protect and expose in the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken to choose from.
As for Davidson and Kekalainen, they must and most likely are doing their part in going over trade packages for defensive standout Seth Jones who informed the team that he would like to test the free agent market which is absolutely his right. The Blue Jackets can receive a big haul for Jones but it must be a haul that fills a need. Either another top defensive player or a top line center should be the targets.
One very good thing the Columbus Blue Jackets have going for them is salary cap space. No matter retool or rebuild the Blue Jackets can speed it up with three first round draft picks and cap space. In what is only a guess on my end, this is what the Blue Jackets will do. Sign players, trade players to reshape the roster.
If the Blue Jackets use all three first round draft picks that to me spells rebuild. If they trade one or two of the picks that to me spells retool. Not much separates a retool from a rebuild other than in a retool a team is adding players to an already existing roster. A rebuild is a sell off on most of the current roster and starting basically from scratch which takes a bit longer.
It is an exciting time to be a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This will be a very interesting offseason.
For a team that finished a playoff streak of four years, yet had a disappointing season, the Columbus Blue Jackets still have pieces in place to retool or rebuild the roster. Yesterday the NHL held their annual Draft Lottery. When the ping-pong ball came up with the Blue Jackets logo on it, the team won a top five pick.
Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen spoke to the media shortly after the Blue Jackets found out their draft fate. Kekalainen said a few things of interest. First he said there is very good talent in the first seven picks. NHL experts agree. Kekalainen also hinted the team could very well trade one of their three first round picks in order to strengthen the roster.
While it seems likely the Columbus Blue Jackets will trade defensemen Seth Jones this summer, the return will be huge. The Blue Jackets need scoring. In the worst way. Before I dive into a couple of players I think Columbus would be wise in taking at #5, let me get this out of the way. The Blue Jackets should re-sign Patrik Laine to a max-deal. He is simply too good to trade away. The Blue Jackets should build they’re offense around him.
Teams at the top of the draft are desperate for defense. So the top defensive players will be off the board before pick #5. The Blue Jackets have a solid defensive crop so they do not need to address that early on. So who could come in and have a chance to impact the Blue Jackets offense as early as this season? Let’s take a look.
William Eklund, Center, Eklund is one of if not the top Swedish prospects. A very good dual threat center with natural offensive instincts, Eklund was one of the top scoring 18 year old forwards in SHL history and earned the league’s Rookie of the Year award.
Eklund is NHL ready and the Blue Jackets need help at the center position. In time Eklund should grow into a top line center. But, coming to a new league it is likely he will bounce from the second and third lines if he is the Blue Jackets selection.
Next is a player who I believe the Columbus Blue Jackets should draft. Dylan Guenther, Right Wing (RW), Where to start with this phenomenally elite prospect?
First off no matter where he is on the ice Dylan Guenther is a threat to score. A forward with soft hands and sharp hand eye coordination, Guenther is a sniper when shooting the puck and deadly with his passes. In the defensive end this two-way player is also elite. Guenther projects as an NHL star.
So with the 2021 NHL Draft coming next month, the Blue Jackets are doing their homework. But the two players I identified William Eklund and Dylan Guenther are both NHL ready prospects who can help immediately.