What Lies Ahead: The Primary Order Of Business The Blue Jackets Need To Accomplish

By Will Chase on June 24, 2024 at 1:45 pm
President, general manager, and alternate governor Don Waddell of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

By this time tomorrow, we'll finally have a Stanley Cup champion. Then it gets real busy across the NHL.

While the Edmonton Oilers look to pull off the once unthinkable reverse sweep with tonight's Game 7 against the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final from Sunrise, Florida, there are several key dates on the NHL calendar coming full steam ahead.

The entire league is gearing up for the draft which is this weekend, June 28-29, from the Sphere in Las Vegas. Then free agency opens up on July 1, and the Blue Jackets need a coach.

President and general manager Don Waddell spoke to the media last Thursday to address several questions and decisions ahead facing his club.

Here's everything the Blue Jackets must accomplish this summer.

The Draft

Among the first orders of business is the draft as Waddell and his staff have been meeting to discuss possible scenarios the Blue Jackets could entertain.

Dan Dukart put together the draft primer in May with one of several potential candidates the Blue Jackets can take with the fourth overall pick.

And they could even move back in the draft?

The latest mock draft from The Athletic has Columbus taking Ivan Demidov, who we wrote about last month.  

New Summer, New Coach

Though Waddell would not divulge details from his conversation with former head coach Pascal Vincent during last week's press conference, the takeaway is the Blue Jackets are all in on a head coach with NHL experience.

"I felt that we need to go in a different direction," Waddell said. "We've been through some younger coaches, and we need to look at an experienced coach to come in here.

"We need somebody that's been in (the head coaching) chair before that's coached in the NHL. We'll have some good choices there."

While it remains to be seen where the Blue Jackets opt for their next bench boss, Ed Francis ranked the pool of potential head coaching candidates.

What's in the Blue Jackets' favor is they are the only team seeking a coach. Waddell said he and his group have a list of 12 people, which they plan to whittle down to roughly 3-4 candidates they hope to interview around the draft and keep the process moving forward.

Free Agency

Since the initial days of Waddell's hiring by the Blue Jackets, the new GM has already talked about the aspects he likes and doesn't like all that much.

"I love the draft and I love the trade deadline," Waddell said in his interview with Blue Jackets radio broadcaster Bob McElligott last month. "Not crazy about July 1 because some of the worst decisions in all of hockey are made on July 1, and I just don't want to be a part of that."

So, how involved can we expect the Blue Jackets to be once free agency begins?

"I don't think there's any game-changers, "Waddell said last week. "Maybe some spots we want to address. Bottom-six forwards, maybe, and defensemen. I don't look at it being that we're going to get a major game-changer during free agency but there's some things we'd like to add for sure." 


The Blue Jackets have several restricted free agents to sign. Yegor Chinakhov's new contract set the wheels in motion after last week's extension for two years at $4.2 million ($2.1 AAV).

Patrik Laine is likely on the move. When and where is not so cut and dry.

"We're still working with his agent, Andy Scott," Waddell said. "Teams that I've talked about, they want to talk with them.

"It's too early to say about money. We want to make a hockey trade if we can and certainly exhaust every opportunity in every team that potentially has interest in him."

The injury bug has taken a big bite out of the Blue Jackets in the last few seasons, making troubling seasons on the ice all the more difficult to navigate.

Every team goes through it, but what can the team do to rectify the number of injuries for this upcoming season?

I have a list that was sent to me about our injuries because you're looking for some kind of pattern. We had a lot of freak injuries. A lot of things that you can't prepare for and train for.

It is something that we have talked about. We have our trainers and strength coach traveling around, meeting with all the players, and meeting with who they're training with.

I think there's been a big step already taken to try to get the players to prepare for the season. The reports that we're getting back that everybody's really doing well.

We want to monitor what they're doing with their trainers and by the time they get here, be ready to roll. We're aware of it but it all comes down to preparation during the summertime.

And those are some of the major storylines surrounding the Blue Jackets over the coming days and weeks. As the season ends and the offseason begins for all 32 clubs, it's about to get crazy.

Buckle up.

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