Apr 25, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Marian Gaborik (10) skates in the Dallas Stars zone during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blue Jackets defeated the Stars 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Grading Jarmo Kekalainen

With the NHL Draft Combine completed, the 2013 draft in New Jersey is right around the corner. Jarmo Kekalainen and company hopefully paid attention at the combine considering that Columbus has three first round draft picks. I don’t know about you but I am really excited for this years draft, and I am sure Kekalainen is as well. I wanted to take a look back at what the new GM has been up to since getting hired.

“The Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to terms on a multi-year contract with Jarmo Kekalainen to serve as the club’s general manager, Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson announced today. Kekalainen, who has been the president and general manager of Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League since 2010, becomes the third general manager in Blue Jackets history.” [BlueJackets.NHL.com]

February 13th 2013, John Davidson has nothing but fantastic things to say about Jarmo Kekalainen from there time together in St Louis, and Kekalainen becomes the first European GM in NHL history. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I think I breathed a huge sigh of relief after I heard Jarmo’s (can I call you Jarmo?) extensive credentials, and actually had been wishing that this had happened before the season had even started, maybe even pre-Nash trade, not that I didn’t like the trade.

So the question that I am going to work through here is…How is Jarmo doing so far?

Jarmo’s first deal (March 10th) as a GM was quite minor, literally, swapping minor league players with Winnipeg. Columbus acquired Spencer Machacek and traded away Tomas Kubalik. Machacek finished the season with the Springfield Falcons playing 18 games and tallying 14 points (5+9). It is to early to tell if Machacek will make any sort of significant contributions for the Blue Jackets, some significant size was lost in that trade though. {C+}

Two days later Jarmo made up for some of the size that Columbus had previous lost while trading away Kubalík. Columbus acquired Matthew Ford from Philadelphia, for future considerations. Ford finished the season with the Springfield Falcons playing 18 games and producing 11 points (5+6). Again, it is to early to tell if Ford will make any substantial difference to the Columbus or Springfield line-up. {C+}

Apr 25, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Michael Leighton (49) warms up before the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Blue Jackets defeated the Stars 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Trade deadline day was where Jarmo really made a splash, and made a pretty big statement of where he wants this team to go. His first move involved back-up goalies, Steve Mason to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and a third round pick. I really like the additional pick that CBJ acquired in this trade, Mason was young but never really shined in Columbus. Leighton has the ability to win and play well, so hopefully he will show that for CBJ. {B}

The second move of the trade deadline, the really big splash, was a deal with the NY Rangers. Derek Dorsett, John Moore, and Derick Brassard to NY, in return CBJ acquired Marian Gaborik, Steven Delisle, and Blake Parlett. The two minor league defensemen, Delisle and Parlett statistically look to be pretty decent prospects to have in the farm. Parlett in particular had good numbers in the OHL. Gaborik is obviously the big fish that Jarmo caught on trade deadline day. He may have fallen off the wagon a bit this season for the Rangers but there is no doubt that he has a scorers touch and can find the back of the net. He seemed to fit in quite nicely at the end of the season, playing 12 games and putting up 8 points (3+5). {A-}

The two last moves on trade deadline day, you may see as minor but I see some significance within them. CBJ acquire Blake Comeau another mid-aged player who has shown, I think, great potential at times from Calgary for a 5th round draft pick. Comeau didn’t show much for the Flames but had previously produced solid points for the Islanders. The last move of the day saw the CBJ acquire a goalie, Patrick Killeen, from Pittsburgh for a conditional draft pick. Killeen is a young goalie who had been playing in the ECHL for the Wheeling Nailers (an affiliate team of the Penguins) and boasted a record of 19-12-4. Killeen joins a young group of goalies for Columbus and adds even more options and depth for the future. {B}

CBJ have also made several moves since the end of the season, including three signings, two contract extensions, and one re-signing. {C+}

Signings
Lukas Sedlak – Signed three year entry level contract (6th round pick 2011)
Ilari Melart – Signed a one year deal as a free agent
Anton Forsberg – Signed three year entry level contract (7th round pick 2011)

Apr 25, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) warms up before the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Blue Jackets defeated the Stars 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Extensions
Matt Calvert – Contract extended two years – 23 year old LW,  42 games played, 16 points (9+7) in this past season.

Cam Atkinson – Contract extended two years – 23 year old RW, 35 games played, 18 points (9+9) in this past season.

Re-Sign
Curtis McElhinney – Resigned to a one year contract

Overall I think that Jarmo Kekalainen has done well with bringing in young talent to bolster the depth chart, but has also added some veteran players that bring experience as well as talent. Don’t forget that Jarmo’s strength is finding talent, which should mean a promising draft for CBJ. If you assign a number to each of those grades, then average them out, Jarmo would get a {B}. I am going to bump it up slightly and give him a final grade of {B+}. If it wasn’t for bringing in Gaborik and Comeau it may have been significantly lower, hopefully some of the young talent that he acquired as well will turn out to be diamonds in the rough, only time will tell though.

What Grade Would You Give Jarmo So Far?

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