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2019 NHL Free Agency: GM Jarmo Kekalainen gives press conference and day one wrap up

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Hear from the GM after the Nyquist signing and other events of the first day of free agency.

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Let’s get into it - what a day.

After a long night of will they/won’t they and contract details leaking, the Blue Jackets saw Matt Duchene leave and go the Nashville Predators for seven years and $56 million, Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers for seven years and $81.5 million, and Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers for seven years and $70 million.

A link to the live blog/open thread can be found here for those who wish to see the reactions and discussion in real time.

Our coverage of Artemi Panarin can be found here.

Our coverage of Sergei Bobrovsky can be found here.

Our coverage of Matt Duchene can be found here.

With those three players off the board, the Jackets made three signings of their own, including bringing back two of their restricted free agents.

The team signed Joonas Korpisalo to a one year deal worth $1.15 million and Ryan Murray to a two year deal worth $9.2 million.

Our coverage of Joonas Korpisalo can be found here.

Our coverage of Ryan Murray can be found here.

Finally, the Jackets dipped their toes into the unrestricted free agent pool. One hour into free agency, the team announced a four year deal for former Detroit Red Wing and San Jose Shark Gustav Nyquist worth $22 million.

Our coverage of Gustav Nyquist can be found here.


At 4 PM, GM Jarmo Kekalainen gave a press conference to update the media on the state of the team. Here follows a rundown of his quotes on the day’s events:

On signing Gustav Nyquist: “Speed, durable. He was one of the players we targeted at the deadline. Versatility, he can play left side or right side and [...] that fills a need for us.”

On Artemi Panarin: “I don’t want to get into the details, but we said all along we’ll do everything we can to keep him. ... We tried everything, and I can go to bed knowing we did everything we can to keep a good player.”

On continuing to be aggressive: “We’re comfortable where we are right now. We accepted the risk at the deadline. ... We strengthened the team ... We assumed the risk that the could all be walking, and we’re comfortable with it. ... We kept all of our best prospects that are now pushing to make the team ... We’ve seen how young the league’s gotten in the last few years, and they all have the physical attributes basically already to contribute.”

On the goaltender position: “I’m sure that can qualify as a question mark, but St. Louis won the Stanley Cup with a goaltender who was number two in the AHL this time last year.” He also praised how Joonas Korpisalo played during extended stretches taking over for Sergei Bobrovsky, and he notes how most goaltenders (including Sergei Bobrovsky, Ben Bishop, and Carey Price) were number two goaltenders before developing into number one goaltenders. Says they are not going after goaltender “at this time.”

On future moves: “We’re in a great position as far as flexibility with our cap and our depth chart.” Jarmo noted that with the strong defense and the flexibility afforded by the cap space, he did not rule out making a move in the future. He has noted that he has never been afraid to make a move and bring in players.

On Werenski and Harrington: “I’m confident we’ll get a deal done with both those guys.”

Jarmo made a point of not knocking the guys who left as “wanting to leave Columbus” and putting down the city by leaving. He brought up the team winning over the last three years and the right of players to leave as free agents, but doesn’t feel that their decision reflects poorly on the city or on the club. “Different players make decisions based on things that interest them.” He mentions not holding a grudge, a note everyone should follow.

Are you looking forward to a season with less drama? “We’ll see, but I think we dealt with it the right way ... We dealt with it in the locker room and didn’t let it become a distraction ... It wasn’t much of a concern for us.”

On Veini Vehvilainen: “He’s gonna be the wild card. I don’t think he’s as high profile right now ... He’s been in the finals of the Finnish league twice and he’s going to get a chance to compete.”

Jarmo also had no comment on future moves happening at this time.

He owned the all-in decision and the ramifications of the unrestricted free agents leaving. Agree or disagree with the decision, he accepted responsibility and made no excuses for the front office or the team, believing he still has a talented core here (singling out the defense specifically).


That’s a wrap for the first afternoon of free agency for the 2019-20 NHL season. Stay tuned to the Cannon all summer as we cover any breaking news, trades, and signings that may happen.

The season opens in a few months, and the team is not done yet building a roster. The sky is not falling, Blue Jackets fans. We have a long way to go until October 4. Buckle up.