Sunlight has a way of finding itself into the locker room following the final game of the season.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen, speaking with reporters following the Blue Jackets' Game 6 loss to the Boston Bruins, said that a pair of defensemen were close to a return to the ice after missing most or all of the postseason.
Ryan Murray, on injured reserve since Feb 18, may have been available in the Eastern Conference Finals, had the Blue Jackets' run continued. His specific injury is still undisclosed, though it's thought to be a back injury.
Markus Nutivaara, who was out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis under what was listed as an upper-body injury, was more specifically suffering from a muscle tear after a hit received by Nikita Kucherov in the Blue Jackets' first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Nutivaara was a possible return in the Conference Finals as well.
Markus Nutivaara was dealing with a muscle tear, per Jarmo. He was still a few weeks away. The GM said Ryan Murray was a three-month injury from time of diagnosis in Feb. Said he might have been able to play in next round. Declined to say what injury was. Said to ask the player
— Tom Reed (@treed1919) May 7, 2019
Adam McQuaid, who received a concussion on March 28 from a blindsided hit from Andrew Shaw of the Montreal Canadiens, was not close to a return, though it's not clear if it was a concussion that was still keeping him out of action.
#CBJ GM Jarmo Kekalainen didnt say exactly what Adam McQuaids injury is, but said he doesnt think he would have returned in these playoffs.
— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) May 7, 2019
Riley Nash, who was out for the final three games of the Boston series due to an undisclosed injury, had no information released about what would've been his playing status following Game 6.
Though it was the Blue Jackets' offense that struggled most in the final three games of the second-round series against Boston, these three defensemen were sorely missed in helping generate scoring opportunities.
Murray, even with missing 26 games, ended the regular season ranked tenth on the club in points, and tied for fifth in assists. Nutivaara himself had five goals on the year and finished 13th in points.
McQuaid didn't have that sort of offensive-prowess to his game by any means, but his physicality sure could have been used against a team like the Bruins.
Every team battles injuries throughout the season and playoffs, but a banged-up blue line for the Columbus Blue Jackets will be left some thinking what could have been. The good news? Aside from McQuaid, all current Blue Jacket defensemen are under the age of 29.
Barring any further longterm injuries, the defensive core in Columbus looks bright.