NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.
1. When will Pierre-Luc Dubois re-sign?
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Nov. 18 that he’s “100 percent sure” Dubois, a restricted free agent, will be re-signed before the start of training camp. Columbus has a track record of getting contracts done with restricted free agents (defenseman Zach Wersenski re-signed three days before the start of camp last season), which is encouraging, but Dubois is important enough that this will remain the Blue Jackets’ biggest question until the 22-year-old center is under contract.
Dubois led Columbus with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 games last season and 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. As well as he has played in his first three NHL seasons, he has yet to reach his full potential.
“He means a lot to the team,” Kekalainen said. “We’re confident that guys like him and [defenseman Seth] Jones and Werenski and our goalies and even more experienced guys will take a step forward in their development.”
2. What does Mikko Koivu have left?
The Minnesota Wild decided not to re-sign Koivu, making him an unrestricted free agent after 15 seasons with them. The Blue Jackets signed the 37-year-old to a one-year contract Oct. 10; he is slated to center their third line.
Koivu’s 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 55 games last season were his fewest since he scored 21 in 64 games as an NHL rookie in 2005-06. But Koivu, healthy after lingering effects of a 2018-19 knee injury impacted his play last season, said he’s determined to prove himself and win the Stanley Cup for the first time.
“It’s a positive thing right now that there’s a new chapter, new challenge ahead of me and I’m very excited about that,” Koivu said. “I think that can only bring you something good as well.”
3. Will they add a scoring forward before the season?
This will partly depend on when Dubois is re-signed because the Blue Jackets would prefer to know how much NHL salary cap space they’ll have after that contract is completed before adding any players (unless they can create space with a trade). But Columbus has an opening on its second line with Gustav Nyquist projected to need 5-6 months to recover from Nov. 3 surgery to repair a labral tear in his left shoulder.
The Blue Jackets will explore internal options to fill Nyquist’s spot, including rookie Liam Foudy, Emil Bemstrom or Mikhail Grigorenko. But Kekalainen acknowledged signing a forward is possible “if the right opportunity presents itself and the situation changes within our team, and we’re in a good position with our flexibility.”