The 2017-2018 NHL season is almost upon us and it’s time to take a look at the newest players to the organization. This Columbus Blue Jackets off-season was arguably the most important in the short history of the franchise. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen answered the call, bringing in three new player to Columbus. Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte, and Jordan Schroeder were the three players, also brought in April was Gabriel Carlsson. Carlsson is included because he only played seven games in Columbus last season and will make the roster this season.
Columbus Blue Jackets Off-Season: Looking at the Newcomers
An Elite Scorer is a Big Step
The Blue Jackets off-season was spent focusing on one thing, getting past Pittsburgh and out of the Metro in the playoffs. One of the big concerns going into the off-season was the lack of an elite score. Last season the Blue Jackets did not have a player they could turn to when they needed a goal in crucial points in the game. Kekalainen decide to make a blockbuster trade that would fill that need. On June 23rd the Blue Jackets sent Brandon Saad back to the Chicago Blackhawks as well as AHL goalie Anton Forsberg. In exchange Panarin and Motte were brought to Columbus.
Panarin can be that guy Columbus can turn to and say “We need a goal. Go get us one”. 30 goals in each of his first two seasons give the Blue Jackets confidence that he can be that guy. While only being in the NHL for two years, the 25-year-old has averaged 75 points a season. Panarin was also awarded the Calder Trophy in 2016. Adding Panarin to the roster will give the Blue Jackets the much-needed boost that their offense lacked in the postseason. This is a big step towards getting out of a tough Metro Division.
Center Position Became the Center of Attention
After the expansion draft happened in June the center position became a huge need. When the Vegas Golden Knights took William Karlsson that left the Blue Jackets thin at center. Pierre-Luc Dubois is expected to make the roster, but not in the way that was originally thought coming into camp. Dubois who expected to be the third or fourth line center this season but has instead been moved to the wing and captain Nick Foligno has been moved to center.
Foligno has spent time at center before, but not for some time. Foligno has had to fill in the role for Columbus at times due to injury, but not on a long-term basis. Foligno did so for a period of time in 2014-15, a season where he scored 31 goals, had 42 assists, and 73 points which are all career highs. The 2014-2015 season also lead to Foligno being named the first Blue Jackets captain since Rick Nash in 2011.
The best scenario is this is a temporary solution until the Blue Jackets can bring someone in to bolster the position. Whether that be via trade or a claim off waivers, this is a need they will need to address before the season’s end.
Last Line of the Defense
The Blue Jackets are set when it comes to defensemen, for the most part. The third defense pairing has consisted of Ryan Murray and then a revolving door of defensemen. Last season Markus Nutivaara and Scott Harrington split time at the position during the regular season. However, when the playoffs came around the Blue Jackets called up Gabriel Carlsson from Sweden.
Carlsson impressed many people during his short stint in Columbus, from the people in the organization to the fan base. While he did not put on a great offense showing in the five postseason games he showed great defensive potential. Carlsson showed that potential while going up against the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions as well. If he can live up to his potential Carlsson will seal the third defensive pairing this season.
With the addition of Panarin the Blue Jackets addressed their major offensive concern going into the off-season. Once the organization finished that trade it didn’t do much to bring new players in. The center position will need to be filled before they get into the depth of the season to build chemistry. If Carlsson does not live up to expectations they will also have to find another defenseman. Otherwise the Blue Jackets risk having another revolving door.