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A pitch for Columbus: A letter to NHL free agents on behalf of the Blue Jackets

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Signing with the Blue Jackets is the right move for a number of reasons

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency officially starts on Monday, and the Columbus Blue Jackets face several potential holes on their roster with the expected departures of players like Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky. With that in mind, free agents may need some help making up their minds when it comes to signing with the CBJ. If you know a hockey player on the fence about Columbus, please give them this letter.

Dear Prospective Blue Jacket,

Congratulations! By merely considering Columbus as a destination for the next step in your professional hockey career, you’ve already surpassed many others who never gave Columbus a passing thought—or worse, played here and then willingly left.

You’ll find that both the city and franchise offer you a wealth of opportunities as long as you feel like backchecking where you can grow as both a player and a person. You’re about to find out what hundreds of CBJ alumni already know: while it may not have the cachet of New York or Sunrise, Florida, Columbus a special place.

The Team

Let’s start off with your potential teammates. Are you a forward? Lucky you! You could probably play in a top-six role right off the bat, maybe even first line. You’ll have the unique opportunity to mentor some young up-and-coming stars and play for a Stanley Cup-winning coach. Were you often stuck with the same linemates at your old team? In Columbus, just wait 20 minutes and you’re almost guaranteed to see some new faces the next time you line up for a faceoff! Never been healthy scratched before? You don’t know what you’re missing. The popcorn at Nationwide can’t be beat—just wait until you don’t score for a few games in November, and you’ll have all the popcorn you can eat.

Do you play defense? Sit back and watch one of the world’s top pairings excel for 25 minutes a night. You’ll get plenty of rest and can all the notes you want before you match up with the opponent’s checking line. You’ll need to block shots, but don’t worry about getting hurt. The Blue Jackets’ medical staff boasts extensive experience caring for injured defensemen. You’ll be in good hands. We’re joking around about your workload playing on a team with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, of course, but considering the team’s current goaltending situation, you’ll be an extremely valued member of the team.

If you’re a goaltender with legitimate NHL experience, good news: you’ll have the opportunity to be the starting goalie for a team that won a playoff round last year! You’ll compete with a sub-.900 Finn and the only Latvian with an Audi RS3 in the state. The job is yours for the taking…but if you do get it, don’t turn your back on the Latvian. Just a word of advice.

The Fans

Columbus Blue Jackets fans are some of the most dedicated in the NHL. Could you imagine sitting through almost 20 years of mostly putrid hockey before your team even won one lousy playoff series? That’s real love. You have the opportunity to string together some decent seasons and become a local legend. Hell, Matt Duchene played here for three months and is one signature away from getting his own statue. Rick Nash once asked for a trade and now works for the team! The fans are (largely) forgiving and just want to root for a winner. They also know the game and care about learning more by listening to podcasts and reading blogs—at least the smart, good-looking fans do.

The City

If you ask anybody but Sergei Kostitsyn, you’ll likely hear wonderful things about the city. It’s a great place to raise a family (that’s normally the first thing you hear) with more to do than meets the eye. Take it from the aforementioned Rick Nash, whose job apparently involves wooing free agents to the 614 now:

“Spend a week. Let’s go golfing, go to the Short North, go to an Ohio State football game, a Blue Jackets game or a concert. Go to the Arena District. Come to Easton with me. Go to a Clippers game or an outdoor concert. There’s a new (Crew) soccer stadium going up now. The (Franklin Park) Conservatory. Give it a chance.”

That’s a lot of stuff, even if you don’t count the fact that he said concerts twice! He also left out Arena Football, COSI, the zoo…the list goes on. There’s even a phenomenon about outsiders “discovering” something new about Columbus. Plus, you’ll be able to ink some sweet endorsement deals. Brandon Dubinsky’s got his signature Meyers Jewelers point, Nick Foligno can’t go on Twitter without seeing a GIF of him in a Papa John’s uniform, and Seth Jones’s True REST Float Spa radio spot should live in some kind of broadcasting hall of fame. You can write your own ticket.

Our esteemed commenters can offer more reasons to come to Columbus, but hopefully you agree and eventually decide to stay. Live here, play here, and one day sign that eight-year contract…because eight, turned sideways, means forever.