Metropolitan Division Offseason: Winners and Losers

T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Columbus Blue Jackets

Winners:

The Columbus Blue Jackets were winners this off-season. That’s hard to say about a team that I have finishing in last-place in their division. The Metropolitan Division is deep to begin with and with the progression in New Jersey, the Jackets just simply get the short-end of the stick. Most notably, they lack talent in the center position and aren’t deep enough overall to compete this season in a stacked division.

Jarmo Kekalainen and his front-office had a busy off-season. Trading Seth Jones for Adam Boqvist and a first and second round draft pick got things off to quite the start. Then the Jackets swapped Cam Atkinson for Jakub Voracek and signed Sean Kuraly and Zac Rinaldo to help bolster the center position. Whilst Rinaldo and Kuraly are far from top-six fowards, both of them are welcome depth additions to the bottom-nine. Zach Werenski got a six-year extension, Boone Jenner got a four-year deal, Jake Bean was re-signed for another three-years and Patrick Laine will be back for another season in Colombus. While not an exhaustive list, those are the notable moves that were made.

Behind the bench, Brad Larsen, the former assistant coach will take the reigns. Larsen is well-liked within the organization and will shape up to be a nice fit for the Jackets.

"“We underwent an exhaustive process in which we looked very closely at a number of outstanding candidates to be the next coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the one individual we kept coming back to throughout was Brad Larsen,” explained Jarmo Kekalainen. “Brad was one of the top young coaches in the American Hockey League when he joined our club as an assistant coach and over the past seven years has earned the respect of our players, staff and organization with his work ethic, hockey acumen and the way he treats people, and we couldn’t be more pleased to introduce him as our next head coach.”"

Adam Boqvist has huge upside on the blueline, a move like this signals that the Jackets want to be a competitive team but are comfortable waiting a few years to really compete for a championship. Seth Jones has been an elite-level defender for the Jackets but struggled a season ago. Adding a player like Boqvist and acquiring draft capital is a home run for Columbus. It might take a season or two for this deal to pay dividends, but when it does, Columbus will compete for the division title.

Atkinson’s departure is going to sting, bringing in Jakub Voracek offers little relief. Voracek, once a consistent 20-goal scorer is 32-years-old and coming off a season where he scored only 9 goals. A volume-shooter by definition, he has not had a shooting percentage of over 10 percent for seven years and hasn’t scored 20 goals since 2018-2019. The Blue Jackets are hoping Voracek’s play-making ability continues and he rediscovers his scoring touch. If he doesn’t, the Jackets are stuck with Voracek’s $8.25 million cap hit through the 2023-2024 season.

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Regardless of Voracek’s performance, the Jackets are improved over the team last season that went 18-26-12 under John Tortorella and that makes them winners this off-season.