Blue Jackets' General Manager Vacancy Should Be A Coveted One

By Coby Maeir on February 15, 2024 at 6:04 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Dmitri Voronkov (10) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the St. Louis Blues during the third period at Enterprise Center.
© Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets will be looking for their fourth full-time general manager after firing Jarmo Kekalainen on Wednesday. 

This vacancy should be a coveted one, and president of hockey operations John Davidson said as much in his media availability on Wednesday. 

"I think we'll get a lot of calls," Davidson said. "I really do. In fact I've already had a couple. It's a good situation here with ownership, the city itself, with the amount of talent we already have assembled, it's not like starting from the bottom."


Kekalainen and his staff have done a fantastic job of drafting in the past few seasons and as a result, the Blue Jackets have one of the league's best prospect pools highlighted by David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk, two blueliners who were selected sixth and 12th overall in the 2022 draft, respectively. 

There's also Gavin Brindley (34th in 2023) who's in the top 10 in the NCAA in goals as a sophomore, Luca Del Bel Belluz (44th in 2022) who's posted over 0.5 points/game in his first season of pro hockey, Jordan Dumais (96th in 2022) who is the reigning QMJHL MVP, and several others.  

Young Core

If you took every team's best five forwards under 23 years old, the Blue Jackets would arguably have the best group, headlined by 19-year-old rookie Adam Fantilli, who's posted 12-15--27 in his first 49 NHL games. There's also 21-year-old Kent Johnson, who oozes talent and elite playmaking abilities, and 20-year-old Cole Sillinger who has eight goals through 47 games this year after three goals in 67 games last season. Kirill Marchenko is a 23-year-old who has scored 36 goals in his first 109 games, 23-year-old Yegor Chinakhov boasts an elite power-speed combination while posting 14 goals in 40 games this season, and 23-year-old Dmitri Voronkov is third among rookies in goals and is a physical presence on the ice. 

Cap Space

According to, the Blue Jackets have a projected $21.475M in cap space for the 2024-25 season. The aforementioned Johnson, Sillinger, Marchenko, and Chinakhov are all pending restricted free agents at the end of the season, so re-signing them will cut into that number, but the point is that the Blue Jackets have cap flexibility for the foreseeable future, especially if they can shed some salary ahead of the trade deadline and/or during the offseason. There are only four players signed past the 2025-26 season, Elvis Merzlikins through 2026-27 at a $5.4M cap hit, Zach Werenski through 2027-28 at a $9.583M cap hit, Johnny Gaudreau through 2028-29 at a $9.75M cap hit, and Damon Severson through 2030-31 at a $6.25M cap hit. With a salary cap that's projected to rise and under $30M AAV on the books after 2026-27, this team's salary cap is in a pretty good spot. 


If NHL teams' performance were based on fan support, the Blue Jackets would be much higher in the standings. Despite being basement dwellers for the past two seasons, fans still show up and sell out Nationwide Arena. 

This fanbase is craving a winning team. Remember how loud Nationwide Arena was during the 2019 playoffs?

With the prospects, young core, and cap space, the fourth GM in Blue Jackets history, whoever that is, will have a chance to build a consistent winner. 

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