Jarmo Kekalainen is always focused on what's coming ahead.
When he spoke on Saturday with Blue Jackets radio play by play guy Bob McElligott, that much was clear.
The Blue Jackets are projected to have a good amount of cap space heading into the free agency period, and Kekalainen has plans for what the Blue Jackets will likely do with it.
"I’m not so sure we will have so much cap space after we sign our restricted free agents: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, (and) Vladie Gavrikov," said Kekalainen.
He continued: "If you’re going to spend it, you better know that you’re going to spend it for long-term reasons and those three guys are really good players for us. We want to see them in Blue Jackets uniforms for a long time and that’s what the cap space is for, first and foremost."
Two of the three players that Kekalainen named are no-brainers. Dubois is already a star and a leader at the age of 22, and Gavrikov hasn't missed a beat since coming over from the KHL. Anderson, on the other hand, is a bit of a sticky situation.
The Canadian winger hasn't played since December 14th, and he's still rehabbing his shoulder. His season was nothing short of disastrous, but the Blue Jackets know what he's capable of when fully healthy. However, even if Anderson returns to full health, the Blue Jackets will still have to negotiate with him. The last time that happened was before the 2017 campaign, and it resulted in a three-month-long holdout that saw Anderson miss almost all of training camp.
Don't get me wrong, though. A healthy Anderson is worth the price tag, and the Blue Jackets have the cap space to make it happen. With history in mind, it won't be an easy task.
After the Blue Jackets are (hopefully) able to sign Dubois, Anderson, and Gavrikov, they'll have to be creative with the cap space they have left. Kekalainen is always looking to make shrewd moves: "We’re always going to look for opportunities," he said. "If there’s a good opportunity in the free agent market or via trade to make our team better, we’re going to do that."
“How can we make this team better? That’s our job and that’s what we keep talking about every day.”– GM Jarmo Kekalainen
It doesn't matter what time of year it is to Kekalainen: "That’s the mindset we have, whether it’s offseason, during the season, or even after the trade deadline. How can we make this team better? That’s our job and that’s what we keep talking about every day.”
Kekalainen has made a name for himself by making bold moves that other GMs simply won't. Since his arrival in 2013, he has turned the Blue Jackets from a struggling franchise to a perennial playoff contender. With him calling the shots this summer, the Blue Jackets will be in good hands.