Blue Jackets’ 12-Step Plan For Perfect Offseason

The Columbus Blue Jackets are facing a critical offseason. If they hope to continue the momentum they’ve started with their reset, then they need to make all the right moves in July and moving forward.

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The action is starting to pick up with just one week left until the Upper Deck 2022 NHL Draft. Then six days later, the free-agent period opens across the league.

The Blue Jackets will be right in the center of the action starting with the draft. With two top-12 picks at their disposal, they’re set to become an early story of the offseason as they are primed to land two very good prospects to add to an already talented prospect pool.

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That’s were our story begins. The Blue Jackets need a great offseason. The current gap between them and the top contenders is wide. Their main goal is to continue building towards the future.

We have devised a 12-step plan for the Blue Jackets’ offseason. In our sight, if they do these things, they’ll come of July not only feeling good about themselves, but more importantly they’ll have vastly improved.

Here is our 12-step plan for the Blue Jackets for a perfect offseason.

1. Investigate Trading Up at Draft

Given the recent developments leading up to the draft, the Blue Jackets can and should investigate looking to trade up. There’s no question they have the pieces to do it.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings, Juraj Slafkovsky is number one. Why is that important? That ranking is a historically good indicator of how the top of the draft will shake out. If the Montreal Canadiens do go that direction, the Blue Jackets need to speed dial Tom Fitzgerald and work something out.

The obvious need is a top center. If both Shane Wright and Logan Cooley could be had, the Blue Jackets will do whatever they can to make something work. Owning the sixth and 12th picks could be the catalyst for something. The Devils might consider it too.

Imagine this. If Slafkovsky goes first to Montreal and then the Blue Jackets and Devils swing a trade of draft picks straight up (the 6th and 12th picks for 2nd overall), the Blue Jackets draft Wright and the Devils get two top-12 picks where they could land one of the top defensemen and one of the top wingers. With Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier down the middle, their need for Wright or Cooley isn’t as strong.

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The Devils are reportedly listening on the second pick. If the Blue Jackets offer six and 12, I think the Devils have to consider it. In fact, that’s a win for the Devils based on the draft value chart. The Blue Jackets would likely need something back to even it out. I think this is a fair deal from a value standpoint.

  • Devils get 6 and 12.
  • Blue Jackets get 2, 37 and 70.

Regardless, step one to a perfect offseason is the Blue Jackets doing whatever it takes within reason to trade up. The opportunity is there.

2. Leave Round One With Top Defender and Center

Assuming the Blue Jackets keep six and 12, they must fortify at both defense and center. They have multiple ways of accomplishing this.

If Simon Nemec or David Jiricek is there at six, you take one of them. Then at 12, there are various options available as we’ve previously discussed.

Related: 12 Blue Jackets’ Options for 12th Overall

However if the top-two defensemen are gone, Cutter Gauthier or another top forward is there for the taking. Then at 12, see if they can land Kevin Korchinski or Pavel Mintyukov. No matter how it shakes out, the Blue Jackets are primed to land two top prospects. I would just make sure both forward and defense are addressed. However if their best available is the same position, they will do that instead.

3. Make Most of 44th Pick

The Blue Jackets have a second rounder this year. They have a variety of options available when it comes to how they use it. There’s a chance they can land a great player. But here’s what I would do. See if you can trade down.

The goal? See about getting a 2023 pick in a stronger draft. Some teams don’t have early picks and want in on this year’s action. If the Blue Jackets can get a useful player or a 2023 second in return, they have to think about it.

No matter the outcome, the 44th pick carries its own level of importance. History has shown that game changers are available at this portion of the draft. They must get maximum value out of this pick.

4. Pay Patrik Laine

This step is actually steps 1-12, but we are going in chronological order since there doesn’t seem to be any substantial update on the status of Patrik Laine’s next contract. But as the heading says, the Blue Jackets must pay Laine.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine’s contract is a top priority for the Blue Jackets. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The two sides have talked. They have the summer to figure things out. At this point, you shouldn’t worry about them not getting something done. Everything so far seems to fall into the category of standing operating procedure for negotiations. The sides each have a value in mind. It’s now hammering away and coming to an agreement.

It’s the story of the summer for the Blue Jackets. How this ends will go a long way in how the team did this offseason.

5. Secure Adam Boqvist

The other RFA situation to watch is Adam Boqvist. He’s coming off a strong offensive year for the Blue Jackets. But he has to improve in other areas such as overall defense and strength.

The offense though is so tantalizing that you’d expect him to be a part of this core moving forward. The fact that the contract is not done yet suggests there’s work to do.

The fact that Boqvist is only 21 suggests his best is yet to come. If he is able to eventually become an effective two-way defender, that will drastically help the Blue Jackets forward on their reset. The sides need to find the right deal now.

6. Add Defenseman in Free Agency

The Blue Jackets have a good, young core of defensemen. But they have a need for a veteran who can add muscle to this group.

All too often, the Blue Jackets were pushed around by other teams. They need to add someone to help even this out. Whether they look at Josh Manson, Jan Rutta or someone of the like, the Blue Jackets without question are going to address their defense somehow. If not by free agency, don’t rule out a trade.

Josh Manson Colorado Avalanche
Josh Manson could be a free agent target of many teams, including the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

7. Trade for a Defenseman

The Blue Jackets said at the end of season availability that their number-one objective would be to prevent goals. When both management and staff say it on the record, something’s going to change.

If they can’t find the right fit in free agency, they will look at trade options. With some cap issues around the league, the possibility exists that the Blue Jackets can land a good player because their team couldn’t afford to keep them. It’s not a matter of if they’ll address their defense. It’s how they address their defense.

8. Hit the Gym Boys

This one is huge. If the Blue Jackets want to take the next step, they have to hit the gym hard. Guys need to get stronger. The top teams in this league all do well because they both skill and size.

The Blue Jackets are a young, skilled team. But they need muscle especially on the blue line. The way to rectify that is making the gym a priority. When guys report to camp, it will be interesting to see who took this to heart the most.

9. Goalie depth

The Blue Jackets have a clear need for another goalie or two in the system. Cam Johnson is likely not coming back. Neither is Jean-Francois Berube.

Don’t be surprised if the Blue Jackets both draft a goalie and then sign a depth goalie in the organization. It’s currently unclear who is number five behind Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo, Daniil Tarasov and Jet Greaves. They’re one injury away from needing to test that depth. So expect some action in net this offseason.

10. Improve the Monsters

This is an underrated point but an important point. The Blue Jackets need to make sure the Cleveland Monsters are competitive this season.

Last season was a struggle for much of it due to the lingering effects of the pandemic and injuries. They constantly had to make callups. They also signed guys to tryout agreements. Injuries were tough to overcome which made the season difficult.

With new coach Trent Vogelhuber in charge, the Monsters have turned the page and are looking forward to a better season. But they need to make sure they have the right guys in place to maximize their development chances moving forward.

11. Sign Their Depth

Players like Emil Bemstrom, Gabriel Carlsson, Nick Blankenberg and others still need a contract. The Blue Jackets need to make the right decisions on these guys. If they sign them, they need to be signed to the right deal. Otherwise the team will move on from them by relinquishing their rights.

I would expect the three named above to stay. But it’s less clear what Kevin Stenlund’s future holds despite being an RFA. Regardless, the right decisions need to be made when it comes to the team’s depth.

12. Stay the Course

While the team has several important decisions to make, sometimes it’s the things you don’t do that are just as important. They just need to stay the overall course at this point.

They don’t need to make a jarring trade unless the perfect opportunity comes about. Given the success of last year at the draft, the Blue Jackets are on the right track. A big trade at this point could throw off the plan.

The foundation is still being built. Therefore they need to make moves to ensure the foundation is as solid as ever. The payoff will be worth it eventually.

Ace the draft. Make the right decisions with trades and free agency. Kill it at the gym. Then stay the course. If the Blue Jackets follow these 12 outlined steps, they’ll position themselves well not only for this season but for the future as well.