Offseason Roundup: Columbus Blue Jackets

Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports

Over the next month, theScore's NHL editors will review all the offseason moves for each team around the league.

The Columbus Blue Jackets carried the momentum of their banner 2013-14 season into the summer months.

Offseason Overview

General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen rewarded Todd Richards and his coaching staff with two-year extensions in late May. He credited the hard-working brand of hockey the coaching staff instilled in their players as the impetus behind keeping them in the fold until 2017 and beyond.

With the staff preserved, Kekäläinen went to work on the roster. The second-year GM thawed the postseason trade freeze just 10 days after the Stanley Cup was lifted, acquiring Scott Hartnell from the Philadelphia Flyers for disgruntled center R.J. Umberger. The 32-year-old Hartnell is a player consistent with the Jackets' heavy, lunch-pail style and can immediately contribute to both the top six and power-play. 

Columbus continued to tinker toward the draft, allowing the Edmonton Oilers to negotiate a free-agent contract with defenseman Nikita Nikitin in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Next up, the Jackets made a splash with the 16th-overall selection, drafting dynamic U.S. National Team forward Sonny Milano. The wildly skilful, finesse forward pulled his Boston College scholarship off the table in mid-August to hone his craft at the major junior level. His decision bodes well for the Jackets, who can continue to push Milano against sufficient competition until he's ready to contribute for the big club. 

Columbus had its forward depth pillaged in free agency, but the losses were mainly without considerable consequence. Derek McKenzie (Florida), Blake Comeau (Pittsburgh), Cody Bass (Chicago) and Jack Skille (New York Islanders) moved on before Kekäläinen signed Pittsburgh Penguins forward Brian Gibbons. The Jackets would also make a trade, sending Matt Frattin back to the Toronto Maple Leafs for farmhand Jerry D'Amigo.

Kekäläinen remained relatively thrifty, but Brandon Dubinsky eventually forced his checkbook wide open; the former Ranger signed a six-year,  $35.1-million extension on July 11, keeping him with the Jackets until the 2020-21 season.

Despite the good vibes absolutely oozing from Jackets land, there is some outstanding housework that needs to be addressed. Ryan Johansen, the club's first-line center (as he likes to point out), remains without a contract after his entry-level deal expired at the end of this season. He enjoyed a breakout campaign, scoring 63 points, but it was just his first time surviving the rigors of an 82-game schedule. 

His value to the organization, coupled with an element of the unknown, have resulted in a stalemate, which could threaten the start of his season and his role with the organization.

Key Additions

F Scott Hartnell
F Jerry D'Amigo
F Brian Gibbons

Key Departures

F R.J. Umberger
F Derek MacKenzie
F Matt Frattin
F Blake Comeau
D Nikita Nikitin

2014-15 Outlook

With Hartnell in the fold and Nathan Horton on the mend, the Blue Jackets are better equipped to play the brand of hockey that pushed Pittsburgh to its limit last postseason. Sophomore Ryan Murray must be ready to take the next step to help shore up the blue line, but with a rock-sold top six and Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes, Columbus has a chance to improve on their wild card spot and come out of the Metropolitan. 

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Offseason Roundup: Columbus Blue Jackets
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