Columbus Blue Jackets 2018 Early Off-Season Predictions

The Columbus Blue Jackets were eliminated by the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs, so what’s next?

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a busy off-season ahead of them, starting with the NHL entry draft in June. They should take another center with their first round pick. Names like Ryan McLeod, Akil Thomas, Rasmus Kupari, and Liam Foudy are just a few names of the centers who will likely go in the late first or second round according to the NHL Draft Prospects rankings.

In the second round I wouldn’t be surprised if they took a goaltender. There aren’t many high tier goalies in this years draft it seems, however they need a goaltender of the future as it’s definitely possible they’ve stunted Joonas Korpisalo‘s growth by only playing him around 15 games a season. Olivier Rodrigue and Lukas Dostal are the highest rated on the Draft Prospect Rankings and will be likely the best options for the Blue Jackets.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Re-Signing Players

When it comes to re-signing current Columbus Blue Jackets, there are many players who need to be considered. Expect restricted free agents Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Ryan Murray to re-sign. Where it becomes interesting is the pending unrestricted free agents, it’s unlikely Jarmo Kekalainen is willing to let both Matt Calvert and Thomas Vanek walk.

With Darren Dreger’s doubts of Calvert returning, it opens a realm of possibility with extending Vanek. Mark Letestu should certainly be re-signed if it’s only on a one year deal, as his veteran presence could be a major help for a full season and he can give much more than he displayed last season in a very limited role.

On defense, Jack Johnson will almost certainly not be re-signed following sitting through the playoffs. Ian Cole on the other hand was acquired as a rental, but has begun to make a good reputation in Columbus. The Columbus Blue Jackets should certainly look into re-signing him, as he was one of their most reliable defenders in the playoffs and he has been a great partner for David Savard.

Alex Broadhurst, Taylor Chorney and Jeff Zatkoff may be re-signed to AHL deals or two-way deals, but not to one-way NHL contracts.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Potential Buyout?

A buyout of Brandon Dubinsky was first mentioned by Sam Blazer of the First Ohio Battery and is an interesting idea. According to Capfriendly, a buyout would cost the Blue Jackets $1.95M a year against the cap for the next six years.

Compared to his current salary cap hit of $5.85M and his seemingly declining play, a buyout of the veteran forward would make sense however unless Jarmo Kekalainen is planning on making a John Tavares sized signing in free agency there’s no point. Shopping Dubinsky on the trade market on the other hand does make a lot of sense, especially if it can get rid of his whole cap hit. Regarding a buyout, the logical move is to wait a year and see if he can rebound.

Columbus Blue Jackets in Free Agency

When they enter free agency, the influence of the Brandon Dubinsky decision will be very noticeable. If they buy him out or trade him, the Columbus Blue Jackets will certainly be in the market for a third or fourth line center. On the market will be names such as Paul Stastny, Riley Nash, Derek Ryan and Tyler Bozak who all would fit the bill. A stretch third line signing on the other hand could be current Toronto Maple Leaf Tomas Plekanec on a one year deal for a veteran presence.

Another signing would also be a bonafide shut-down depth defenseman, preferably a right handed veteran. Kevin Bieksa fits the bill very well, with the only other possible fit being Roman Polak. This would be especially important toward the tail end of another playoff run, as the Columbus Blue Jackets would likely encounter some injuries on the blue line and having someone who has been there before is much preferred to a nervous young player.

Conclusion

The Columbus Blue Jackets will have a difficult off-season up ahead, with the multiple stages of the summer all being very important to the team’s present and future. Will Jarmo Kekalainen and company make the right calls? Only time will tell.