Blue Jackets add depth on day 2 of free agency, signing Dylan Gambrell and Jack Johnson

After making a bigger splash than most of us expected on the first day of free agency, Don Waddell made a couple of minor moves on day two.
2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Welcome back to Columbus, Jack Johnson!

That's a sentence I never thought I would type out. After 6 and a half seasons in Columbus, Jack left via free agency in 2018, signing with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

At that point in time, I would have put him 7th or 8th on the depth chart amongst Jacket defensemen. It felt like his career was nearing its end - yet, here we are, six years later, and the team just signed him to a one-year contract worth $775k. Stranger yet, he returns as a former Stanley Cup champion.

This deal puts him just above league minimum, which makes it a very low-risk signing. Johnson is 37 years old and should be nearing the very end of his career. Dare I say, retiring as a Blue Jacket?

Last season, he played in 80 games for the Colorado Avalanche, scoring 3 goals and 16 points; along with 38 penalty minutes and a +15 rating. He's a veteran of 1,187 NHL games.

I don't expect Johnson to play in 80 games for the Blue Jackets this season. I think the team added him as a #7 defenseman option. He'll be in the room, around the team, and acting as a sort of "player/coach"; mentoring guys like David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk.

I do still think the team will add another defenseman at some point this summer. They only have four NHL guys outside of Johnson: Zach Werenski, Damon Severson, Ivan Provorov and Erik Gudbranson. While I expect Jiricek to spend his season in the NHL, there's still a vacant job here.

That job could be filled by Mateychuk, but I would honestly be surprised to see Don Waddell roll out two rookie defensemen all season. This is something to keep an eye on.

Earlier yesterday, the Jackets also signed center Dylan Gambrell to a one-year, two-way contract.

Gambrell is a veteran of 233 NHL games, but has spent much of his career in the AHL. I look at this as a depth signing, to replace pieces the team lost via free agency. Most notably, Brendan Gaunce and Josh Dunne.

Gambrell will be a veteran voice for the Cleveland Monsters this season; one who can bounce into the NHL and fill in if need be. I don't see this as a signing that moves the needle too much either way, just a fail-safe pickup for depth.

There is still plenty of work ahead for the Jackets this summer. They have 5 restricted free agents needing contracts, and the Patrik Laine situation still looms large. We'll do our best to keep up with the news as it breaks!