The Five: Available Players The Columbus Blue Jackets Still May Add Via Free Agency

By Ed Francis on October 23, 2020 at 1:20 pm
The Hoff(man)
John E. Sokolowski-USA Today Sports

You can't say Jarmo Kekalainen didn't try.

The Columbus Blue Jackets general manager made a multi-year offer to Taylor Hall, the top free agent forward of the offseason. Betting on himself and hoping for financial stability next year, Hall opted to sign a one year contract with the Buffalo Sabres. 

The contract offer is proof that Blue Jackets management is serious about improving their goal-scoring, which ranked 27th of 31 in the league and was only three goals better than 30th.

And while Columbus missed out on signing Hall, as well as Evgenii Dadaonov (Ottawa) and Tyler Toffoli (Montreal), the pool of available free agents still has some talented players in it. 

The Five looks at five players that could still sign on the dotted line with the CBJ. 

#5: Conor Sheary 

WHY: To be clear, there is absolutely no link between Conor Sheary and the Columbus Blue Jackets. But the former Penguin-then-Sabre-then-Penguin-again averaged 15 minutes of ice time in his last several seasons in Pittsburgh, seeing significant minutes on a good offensive team. The 28-year-old is also a left winger, which is arguably the Blue Jackets weakest position. Sheary would not be a top line guy for Columbus, but could potentially slide between playing on second and third lines centered by Max Domi and Mikko Koivu. Entering his sixth NHL season, Sheary averages 18 goals per 82 games. 

#4: Andreas Athanasiou

WHY: Before the Detroit Red Wings shipped him to Edmonton, Andreas Athanasiou was nearly dealt to the Blue Jackets at last seasons trade deadline. Is Kekalainen looking at him a second time, this time without having to give up any assets to add him? It's certainly possible. Athanasiou played only nine games with the Oilers, scoring once and adding an assist. But the speedy 26-year-old can score (he had 30 goals in the 2018-19 season), has size (6'2"), and versatility (can play all three forward positions). His defense leaves something to be desired, but if he can improve just a bit on that to get into the 'average' category, the Onatrio native could be a good get for Columbus.

#3: Alex Galchenyuk

WHY: Another former Penguin on The Five, and to be clear, another name that I have not directly heard linked to Columbus. Galchenyuk, like Sheary, is not going to be a top line player on any team. But the 26-year-old checks several boxes for the Blue Jackets: He can play all three forward positions. He can score; prior to this season (8 goals in 59 games), Galchenyuk had five consecutive 17+ goal seasons. After playing six seasons in Montreal, the Wisconsin native was dealt to Arizona for current Blue Jacket Max Domi. He's been hampered with injuries the last couple of years, but a healthy and motivated Galchenyuk could boost the Blue Jackets forward situation. 

#2: Mikael Granlund

WHY: After spending several years as a productive player with the Minnesota Wild, Mikael Grandlund did not live up to the expectations the Nashville Predators had when they acquired him in February of 2019. When they acquired him, Predators general manager David Poile stated that "Grandlund falls into one of those players that could be one of our top scorers."

He did score 18 goals in his 79 games with Nashville over two seasons, but fell short of Poile's projections. The recurring them on this list is versatile players, and Granlund fits the bill there too, able to play all three forward positions. 

The close relationship with former Wild captain and new Blue Jacket Mikko Koivu helps, as well. The two of them paired together on the third line, perhaps alongside Boone Jenner, would be a marked improvement from last seasons third line. 

#1: Mike Hoffman

WHY: I made the argument in early September that Mike Hoffman should be the top target for the Blue Jackets. 

I stand by that. He is the best remaining free agent when it comes to scoring goals (29 goals last season, and 36 two seasons ago), he's borderline elite on the power play (28 of those 65 goals came with the man-advantage), and he's a playmaker with or without the puck. Of the remaining free agents, Hoffman is the best available.

There are questions regarding his character that are valid, but being in a locker room with guys like Foligno, Koivu, and Seth Jones, amongst others, should be able to keep things settled.

Hoffman's agent, Robert Hooper, stated earlier this week that Hoffman is open to a one-year contract. In other words, Columbus could make him a full-season rental, and see if the relationship - both on and off the ice - works out.

Which of these players would you like to see in Columbus? Who did I miss? Comment below. 

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