In a year like no other, one of the few things that can be counted on is that the Columbus Blue Jackets will do everything in their power this offseason to bolster a lackluster offense.
According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, GM Jarmo Kekalainen expects this offseason to be an active one.
While not confirming that the Blue Jackets would be involved in any deals, it's no secret that the club is looking to add a top six forward to the roster before the 2020-2021 season begins, which may not be until 2021.
There are plenty of names that have been floated around, but who is a more realistic possibility to join Columbus by next season? The Five looks at the players who could come in and help fix a woeful offense.
Honorable Mentions: Patrik Laine, Johnny Gaudreau
#5: Taylor Hall
The big question with Taylor Hall is money, and as it relates to Columbus, whether or not they can afford the former Hart Trophy winner. Hall wants to win, and has a desire to play with a top-line center. No surprise there. The Blue Jackets can fulfill both of those desires. But in a time of financial uncertainty, will Hall's camp stick to demanding top dollar? He's got just 28 goals and 62 assists in the last two seasons combined (98 games) - those are not the numbers that will get him upwards of $10 million a year. The 2017-18 league MVP version of Hall, however, had 39 goals and 54 assists in 76 games; a little more deserving of the big bucks, but that was three years ago. Still, a top line center is hard to come by and does drive the price up - especially one who still has more than a year before turning 30. If he asks for anything over $8 million, and he likely will, Columbus may have to sit this one out.
Acquisition Odds: 10%
#4: Nik Ehlers
Winnipeg needs defense. Columbus has defense.
Columbus needs offense. Winnipeg has offense.
These two teams are natural trading partners, and a package centered around David Savard (who needs to be traded, even if we all love him) could lead to, at minimum, a lengthy conversation between Kekalainen and Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Patrik Laine's name has come up, but if the Jets make a move, Nik Ehlers seems more likely to be dealt. It keeps their top guy in a Jets uniform, but still allows them to get the much-needed blue line support.
In Ehlers, Columbus would acquire a 24-year-old winger with four consecutive 20 goal seasons, including 21 two seasons ago when he played in only 62 games. If he lands in Columbus, he likely gets paired with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson on the top line. That trio should be good for at least a goal a game, and the trickle down effect gives Columbus a second line that features Oliver Bjorkstrand. Not a bad starting point.
Acquisition Odds: 20%
#3: Mike Hoffman
In September, I laid out the case for Mike Hoffman. He's not going to break the bank - expect him to pull in between $5-7 million per year. Despite that, Hoffman is a fantastic offensive talent who is capable of scoring goals in bunches, and is well known for his ability to do so on the power play. There are some character concerns, but, if he signs with the Blue Jackets via free agency, he'll be embracing the opportunity to play under John Tortorella, who doesn't take kindly to such concerns.
Acquisition Odds: 25%
#2: Andreas Johnsson
Another team that needs defensive help, the Toronto Maple Leafs may need to deal a young talent like Andreas Johnsson in order to beef up their blue line. Reports surfaced last week that the Blue Jackets have interest in the 25-year-old (26 when the season starts). While Johnsson does not give the Blue Jackets a top line threat, this could be a secondary move that Jarmo makes to compliment another acquisition.
Johnsson had just eight goals this season, his second full season in the NHL. He scored 20 times and had 43 points in his rookie campaign, however, demonstrating his ability score. This is on a team with tons of offensive talent, so the argument could be made that he didn't get enough minutes to break through in Toronto. Columbus could give him more, and would likely be able to acquire him without giving up too much.
Acquisition Odds: 40%
#1: Jesse Puljujarvi
Like with Johnsson, Jesse Puljujarvi is not a player that will satisfy the Blue Jackets craving for a top-line offensive threat. But, while the Blue Jackets passed on him in the 2016 NHL Draft for Dubois, Jarmo & Co. still thought of him as a highly talented player who could have NHL success. Now, reports indicate that they've reached out to the Edmonton Oilers regarding the 22-year-old.
Puljujarvi played in Finland this season, and was able to rediscover his scoring touch by scoring 24 goals in 56 games with Karpat. If he can find that type of game in the NHL, he would be a hit in Columbus. With Kekalainen knowing so much about his game, and without a high price tag, this could be the most likely player to join the Blue Jackets in the coming weeks.
Acquisition Odds: 60%
Who's too high? Who's too low? Who do you want? Who don't you want? Is this too many questions? Let us know in the comments!