Columbus Blue Jackets Team Report
By Neil Becker
The Columbus Blue Jackets organization experienced heartbreak this off-season.
In early July, tragedy hit when their 24- year-old goalie Matiss Kivlenieks Was killed in a fireworks mishap. Last year he played eight games with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and two with Columbus where he went 1-1 with a 3.40 G.A.A.
Early in training camp, Columbus signed starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year $27 million dollar contract. He is coming off a campaign that saw the 27-year-old post an 8-12 record with a 2.77 GAA. Last season the 27- year-old played 23 games where he posted an 8-12 record with a 2.77 GAA.
The Blue Jackets pulled off a blockbuster trade when in July, prior to the NHL Draft, they traded 26- year-old defenceman Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenceman Adam Boqvist along with the Hawks first and second picks in the 2021 draft and their first-round pick in either the 2022 or 2023 NHL Dra
Another new face on the Columbus blue line will be 23- year-old Jake Bean who on July 23rd was traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to Columbus for the Canes 2021 second-round pick.
In early August Columbus remained active as they inked 23 -year-old defenceman Andrew Peeke to a two-year contract extension.
Returning to the Blue Jackets blueline will be 27- year-old Mikko Lehtonen who as a free agent signed a one-year deal with the Jackets. Lehtonen was traded in March 2021 from the Toronto Maple Leafs to Columbus where in 17 games he registered 3 assists.
The Jackets blueline took a huge hit when unrestricted free agents Adam Clendening and Michael Del Zotto signed with other teams. Clendening, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Philadelphia Flyers while De Zotto signed a two-year $3 million dollar contract with the Ottawa Senators.
Blue Jackets star defenceman and former 2015 first-round pick Zach Werenski, signed this summer a six-year $57.5 million dollar contract extension.
In late July the Blue Jackets acquired a familiar name in right winger Jakub Voracek from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for veteran forward Cam Atkinson.
Voracek was originally drafted by Columbus 7th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. Last year he scored 9 goals and 43 points in 53 games. Meanwhile, Atkinson has played 627 games with Columbus where he scored 203 goals and 402 points.
In adding toughness, Columbus in August signed left winger Zac Rinaldo to a one-year two-way deal worth $750,000. However, due to not getting vaccinated he was assigned to their AHL affiliate the Cleveland Monsters.
Columbus also signed forward Patrick Laine to a one-year contract extension worth $7.5 million dollars. Last year, he scored only 10 goals and 21 points in 45 games.
Becoming an unrestricted free agent was veteran Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky who last played in 2018/19 due to a wrist injury.
Forwards coming to Columbus camp on a PTO include Brett Gallant, Justin Scott, Cole Cassels, and Adam Helewka.
Unrestricted free agent left winger Stefan Matteau agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
Two other unrestricted free agents who are departing include center Zac Dalpe who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Florida Panthers and center Ryan MacInnis who signed a one-year two-way contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
Management in late July signed 28- year-old centerman Boone Jenner to a four-year contract extension. Jenner has played in 530 career games with Columbus and has scored 121 goals and 240 points.
This will more than likely be a year of development for their young players.