It's never too early for a good old-fashioned lineup prediction.
With the start date of the NHL season unknown, the Blue Jackets still have time to make more trades or moves in free agency, but GM Jarmo Kekäläinen's main priority at the moment is re-signing restricted free agent Pierre-Luc Dubois.
If the Blue Jackets decide not to make any more moves this offseason (besides re-signing Dubois), here's a prediction of John Tortorella's lineup, starting with forwards.
- Key Additions: Max Domi (Trade with MTL), Mikko Koivu (Free Agent Signing), Mikhail Grigorenko (Free Agent Signing)
- Key Subtractions: Alexander Wennberg (Buyout), Josh Anderson (Trade with MTL)
Line 1: Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Line 2: Nick Foligno - Max Domi - Cam Atkinson
Line 3: Liam Foudy - Mikko Koivu - Emil Bemstrom
Line 4: Boone Jenner - Riley Nash - Mikhail Grigorenko
Scratched: Kevin Stenlund
Injured: Gustav Nyquist
In the AHL: Eric Robinson, Nathan Gerbe, Stefan Matteau, Ryan MacInnis, Kole Sherwood, Calvin Thurkauf
With Nyquist's injury, the top six needs to be shuffled around a bit. Foligno will likely get bumped up for the time being, based on Tortorella's willingness to play him in the top six previously. The addition of Koivu, who'll play center on the third line, allows Jenner to return to his natural position on the wing where he's been a 30-goal scorer. Grigorenko, Nash, and Jenner make up a solid fourth line with speed, skill, and experience.
- Key Additions: Gavin Bayreuther (Free Agent Signing)
- Key Subtractions: Ryan Murray (Trade with NJD)
First Pairing: Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Second Pairing: Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard
Third Pairing: Dean Kukan - Andrew Peeke
Scratched: Scott Harrington, Gavin Bayreuther
The defensive corps aren't as deep with the loss of Murray, but they're still fairly solid. The first two pairs are set in stone, and the third pair isn't likely to change, either. Bayreuther was brought in as a seventh or eighth defenseman that can pitch in when needed, but he's unlikely to make a huge impact at the NHL level.
1A: Joonas Korpisalo
1B: Elvis Merzlikins
The Blue Jackets' two-headed monster is back for another season, and Tortorella will likely ride the hot hand. Both goalies are incredibly talented and had great runs last season, but Korpisalo has the edge over Merzlikins in terms of experience.
There you have it. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.