The Columbus Blue Jackets have re-signed president of hockey operations, John Davidson, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and assistant GM Bill Zito each to two-year contract extensions, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday.
Davidson, 63, has been with the Blue Jackets since October 2012 after serving as president of hockey operations with the St. Louis Blues from 2006 to 2012. Since arriving in Columbus, the Blue Jackets have had the team’s best four-year run in franchise history, despite qualifying for the playoffs just once. During that timeframe, the Blue Jackets have posted a 143-124-7 record and made the playoffs in 2013-14.
The franchise suffered a bit of a road bump in 2015-16 and finished 27th in the league. After receiving the third pick at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Davidson and his staff shocked the hockey world when the team chose Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujärvi. While Dubois has no shortage of talent, Puljujärvi was widely considered to be a lock for the third selection at the draft behind forwards Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Puljujärvi was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the fourth overall pick.
Kekalainen, 50, has served as the GM of the Blue Jackets since being hired by the club in February 2013. Kekalainen worked with Davidson as part of the Blues’ front office, when he served as assistant GM and director of amateur scouting as the team drafted many of its core players including David Backes, Patrik Berglund and Alex Pietrangelo. Kekalainen left the Blues when he was offered the GM position with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League before becoming the first European GM in the NHL when he was hired by the Blue Jackets. Kekalainen also served as the assistant GM of the bronze medal-winning Team Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Zito, 52, as hired by the Blue Jackets as assistant GM in August 2013 after a successful career as a sports agent at Acme World Sports, a company he founded in 1995. Zito also serves as the GM of the Cleveland Monsters– the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate. Zito also was part of the management group that helped build the bronze medal-winning Team USA at the 2015 World Championships.
Today’s report on the contract extensions of Davidson, Kekalainen and Zito shows Blue Jackets fans that ownership trusts this management team with the future of the franchise.
Steven is a lawyer and writer with a passion for the game of hockey. He’s the Lead Writer covering the Tampa Bay Lightning with THW. He’s also been press credentialed through the Lightning since 2016. His work has been published at The Fourth Period, LightningInsider.com, Bolt Prospects, The Sports Daily Network, U.S. College Hockey Online and College Hockey News. He’s had radio appearances on TSN 690 in Montreal, Lightning Power Play Live and multiple podcasts to give insight and analysis on the team. He can be reached on Twitter @StevenDiOssi and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.