To say that this is going to be an important offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets is, by and large, an understatement.
After failing to qualify for the postseason for the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Blue Jackets front office has several key decisions to make, including:
- Rebuild, reload, retool?
- Who to expose to the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft?
- What to pursue in a likely Seth Jones trade?
- Which goaltender to move forward with?
- Whether or not to pursue a big name via trade?
While some of these decisions are already made and just not public knowledge yet, others are evolving and won't be answered until later in the summer.
Here are the key dates for July in a condensed offseason that is sure to shape the franchise for seasons to come:
Saturday, July 17th is the deadline for teams to submit their protected lists for the NHL Expansion Draft. All signs point to the expansion Seattle Kraken picking up Eric Robinson, Dean Kukan, Gustav Nyquist, or Kevin Stenlund from the Blue Jackets.
Wednesday, July 21st is a bit of a soft opening of the NHL's return to ESPN, as the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will air on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. This will not only give us our first look at what the Kraken will look like, but will confirm - if it's not confirmed in the days before - who the Blue Jackets will lose to the pacific northwest.
Friday, July 23rd will help take the sting of whoever the Blue Jackets lose in the expansion draft, as the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft airs at 8 p.m., also on ESPN2. If they stand pat, Columbus will make three selections Friday night, including the fifth overall pick. The second sting may come with a Seth Jones trade, as reports have said that a deal involving the Blue Jackets All-Star defenseman is likely to take place around the time of the draft.
Saturday, July 24th is the remainder of the entry draft, which can be seen on the NHL Network. Columbus does not currently own a second round pick, but will make selections in each of the final five rounds. Those picks include:
Round 3, 68th overall
Round 4, 100th overall
Round 5, 131st overall
Round 5, 132nd overall
Round 6, 164th overall
Round 7, 196th overall
Wednesday, July 28th (at noon, to be precise) is the opening of free agency. Columbus doesn't have any major unrestricted free agents, but the list of UFA's who played with the Blue Jackets last season is as followed: Michael Del Zotto, Mikko Lehtonen, Stefan Matteau, Gavin Bayreuther, Zac Dalpe, and Ryan MacInnis. Adam Clendening is also a UFA, and the team is officially has Brandon Dubinsky off their books as of the new season.