Jarmo Kekalainen Believes That The Blue Jackets Are Still In A Strong Position Moving Forward

By Jacob Nitzberg on April 12, 2021 at 4:47 pm

The Blue Jackets were quiet on deadline day.

Michael Del Zotto, who many thought was a surefire candidate for a trade given his strong play and UFA status after this season, is still a member of the Blue Jackets. The club made two deals over the last week, though. They sent David Savard to Tampa Bay in exchange for a 2021 1st-rounder and a 2022 third-rounder, and dealt Nick Foligno to Toronto for a 2021 1st-rounder and 2022 fourth-rounder. 

"We wanted to get ahead of it... that's why we did (the deals) well before the deadline," said Jarmo Kekalainen on Monday afternoon after the 3:00 PM trade deadline. They were both complicated, as each deal involved a third team helping to make the trade work from a financial standpoint.

Savard and Foligno are two players who mean a lot to the team, organization, and fanbase, so it was hard to let them go. The return that Kekalainen got for each of them is impressive, and it lessens the blow, especially with the very real possibility that Foligno re-signs with Columbus in the summer.

With Boone Jenner, Zach Werenski, and (probably) Gustav Nyquist out for the season, and Savard and Foligno gone, the Blue Jackets' current roster doesn't seem too familiar. But, when they get healthy, Kekalainen likes the direction of his team.

"We have some great assets for the reload I've been talking about," said Kekalainen. The Blue Jackets now have three first-round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft, which is a position that affords them great flexibility. They can package the picks for a player, use them to trade up or down, or simply use all three.

For the rest of the season, the Blue Jackets' depth will get an opportunity to play, due to them being out of the playoff race and their amount of injuries. Kole Sherwood is in the lineup tonight against the Blackhawks, and Kekalainen said there's "a very good chance" that free-agent signing Josh Dunne will make his Blue Jackets debut before the end of the season. 

After giving up several draft picks to acquire Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in 2019, Kekalainen has recouped his losses this year. The Blue Jackets have drafted well recently, especially their Russian trio who continue to tear it up in the KHL: Kirill Marchenko (second round, 2018), Yegor Chinakhov (first round, 2020), and Dmitri Voronkov (fourth round, 2019) have all been very impressive for their respective clubs this season.

The Blue Jackets also have Liam Foudy (21), Emil Bemstrom (21), Alexandre Texier (21) Andrew Peeke (22), Patrik Laine (22), Zach Werenski (23) and Jack Roslovic (24). That's a young core that's exciting, and it's not hard to see why Kekalainen is still optimistic about the Blue Jackets' future, even after some difficult decisions this week.