It’s been a little over week since the start of NHL Free Agency July 1, and it’s been a rather eventful week-plus for all 31 teams including your Columbus Blue Jackets.
Matt Calvert, Ian Cole, Cameron Gaunce, Jack Johnson, Jordan Schroeder (Trade) Thomas Vanek
Sunday, July 1
On the first day of free agency, the departures of Calvert, Cole, Johnson, and Vanek from Columbus were official. While Calvert, Cole, and Vanek left under more graceful terms, to the Avalanche and Red Wings respectively, Johnson’s signing with the Penguins caused waves, as only the Penguins do, and John Tortorella cursing out GM Jim Rutherford from within the media.
Jean-François Bérubé (Trade) Adam Clendening, Tommy Cross, Anthony Duclair, Garret Cockerill, Riley Nash, Brad Thiessen, Dillon Simpson
Sunday, July 1
Needing to solidify the center-ice position, the shrewdness of Jarmo Kekäläinen poked through the departures of those leaving the team with the announced signing of Riley Nash, three years, $2.75 million.
Nash, 29-years-old and coming off a career-year with the Bruins (41 points, 15 goals, 26 assists) will bring depth to the center position and will be an upgrade over a number of things tried last season in Columbus. Now Nick Foligno should be able to stay at wing and potentially thrive in the role again.
Thursday, July 5
As for Duclair, a personal endorsement from Vincent Lecavalier himself helped propel the enigmatic left-wing towards John Tortorella and Central Ohio.
Yes, Duclair is set to join his already fourth NHL team at just 22-years-old. He spent parts of the 2014-15 season with the Rangers before being traded to the Coyotes for another two-plus seasons. He then asked out of the desert and found himself trying to revive his season for a franchise trying to save theirs, the Blackhawks, who never dug out of the hole they buried themselves in early last season.
For less than one million bucks, this is the type of low-risk, high-reward move that can turn out to be quite the steal later on.
Duclair has something to prove to himself, and he and the Jackets will have plenty of roster competition to hopefully jumpstart everyone. Vitaly Abramov is in this mix. Duclair has only played a true full season one time in his career — 81 games in 2015-16 — so perhaps the right amount of luck and skill around him will help bring out his full potential.
And if not, it’s $650k. He missed the remainder of last season after suffering injury in March and only played 23 games in Chicago with eight points (2—6).
The Blackhawks decided not to give him a $1.2 million qualifying offer which may prove to be the right decision. For Columbus, it’s the definition of a bargain and potential steal. Said Duclair’s agent, Philippe Lecavalier, “I thought he should go to the best situation, hockey-wise, not necessarily the best offer” referencing the report that Duclair turned down more money for a chance to turn around his early career in Columbus.
Which is what Kekäläinen and the rest of the team are banking on.
Thursday, July 5
Also re-upping in Columbus for four additional seasons was Boone Jenner who signed through the 2021-22 season and will make $15 million. Jenner is the first restricted free agent to re-sign, leaving Oliver Bjorkstrand and Ryan Murray as remaining RFA.
#CBJ D Ryan Murray, a restricted free agent, did not elect for salary arbitration. As of Wednesday, negotiations were yet to start on new contract.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) July 5, 2018
Tuesday, July 3
Buried within the signings and departures were the musings of a potential ‘Blue Jackets could be interested in Erik Karlsson.‘ Who knows what truth there ever was to that or how truly “big-game hunting” the Jackets ever were in trying to pry the defenseman from the Senators.
Guaranteed every team is interested in the world-class player and any contending team would, at the very least, have discussions. But if you’re Columbus, what’s a realistic offer?
Artemi Panarin and a bunch of prospects and draft picks?
Oh you’d like to keep Panarin but the rumblings (story by Aaron Portzline at The Athletic, subscribe here) about him not wanting to commit to the Blue Jackets on a long-term deal surfaced at the onset of free agency. From the 26-year-old’s standpoint, and embarking on being an unrestricted free agent a year from now, it makes perfect sense to wait and see how the upcoming season shakes out.
What is Columbus going to do to round out this offseason and how will the team play next season? That can have a ripple effect on what happens in goal as Sergei Bobrovsky is set to be an unrestricted free agent as well.
*Breaking News* Sens permission for Karlsson to have direct talks on an Extension with other teams Situation to watch : Not difficult to conclude that with no negotiations with @BlueJacketsNHL Bobrovsky won’t be with CBJ beyond his contact, if not sooner as per Russian Rumblings— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) July 3, 2018
I mean, with regards to Kevin Weekes, who knows what happens. At this point, everything has to be on the table. Like the Islanders - versus John Tavares saga. If you’re not going to contend, and sometimes even if you are, you have to consider moving pieces before they walk away for nothing.
Sunday, July 8
And lastly, Dean Kukan celebrated his 25th birthday Sunday.