More New Faces: What Do Dylan Gambrell And Zach Sawchenko Bring To The Blue Jackets Organization?

By Ed Francis on July 9, 2024 at 8:15 am
Dylan Gambrell, skating in front of some future teammates.
© Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

On the opening day of free agency, the Columbus Blue Jackets added their new top-line center with the signing of Sean Monahan.

On the second day, it was the signing of Jack Johnson as a depth defenseman.

But these weren't the only names that put pen to paper and join (or, in Johnson's case, rejoin) the Blue Jackets organization via free agency.

Dylan Gambrell and Zach Sawchenko each signed one-year, two-way contracts with the club, and while neither are household names, both have logged games in the NHL and give the organization depth both up the middle and between the pipes. 

Here's a closer look at the pair of new Blue Jackets:

Dylan Gambrell

Gambrell is a 27-year-old center who was originally drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks. (In that same round of that same draft, the Blue Jackets chose Andrew Peeke.)

He made his NHL debut at the end of the 2017-18 season, appearing in three games, and scored his first NHL goal in the 2019-20 season. After four seasons in the Sharks organization (and a total of 10 goals and 13 assists in 110 games), Gambrell joined the Ottawa Senators for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, scoring seven goals and adding ten assists in 123 games.

Most recently, Gambrell spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He appeared in 66 games with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, scoring 14 goals and adding 22 assists. 

His contract with the Blue Jackets is a two-way deal, and the expectation is that Gambrell will be with the AHL's Cleveland Monsters. However, Gambrell's ability to play up the middle and 233 games of NHL experience could see him get a chance in Columbus, particularly once injuries start popping up. 

Zach Sawchenko

Sawchenko comes to the Blue Jackets after spending time with the Sharks, the Carolina Hurricanes, and most recently the Vancouver Canucks. The 26-year-old went undrafted and made his NHL debut in January of 2022 while with the Sharks.

There are a couple of noteworthy items regarding Sawchenko, and one was that debut. It came in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, who scored six goals in the first period against Sharks starting netminder James Reimer. Sawchenko entered the game at the start of the second period with the Sharks down 6-1. He was outstanding in the debut, stopping his first 20 shots and helping the Sharks cut it to a 6-5 game in the final two minutes before the Penguins (on the power play) scored to make it 7-5, eventually winning 8-5 on an empty netter. 

In a total of seven games that season — the only of his NHL career — Sawchenko posted a .901 save percentage and 3.35 goals against average. Two of his three starts were labeled as quality starts by NHL metrics.

The other noteworthy piece is Sawchenko's time with the Hurricanes. He signed a one-year, two-way contract with Carolina on July 14th, 2022 — meaning that his stint with the Blue Jackets makes it the second time he's been signed by new Columbus general manager Don Waddell. 

Sawchenko spent last season in the Canucks minor league system, seeing limited action with the Abbotsford Canucks of the AHL. In six games (four starts), the 6'1", 185lb Sawchenko had a .924 save percentage to pair with a 2.12 goals against average. 

Like Gambrell, Sawchenko figured to start the season with the Monsters — but could get a look at the NHL level if injuries or poor play plague the Blue Jackets net for a fourth straight season.

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