The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2015-2016 started out as bad as can be, and never got much better. The team set a record for futility, losing the first eight games of the season in regulation. After firing Coach Todd Richards, John Tortorella came in and compiled a .500 record. The team that many thought would complete for a playoff spot ended up last in the Metropolitan division and second last in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus had a major problem in their own end, allowing the second most goals and the fourth most shots of any team in the league. The squad’s top goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, was hampered with groin injuries that limited him to only 37 games. Even while he was playing, he struggled to a 2.75 Goals Against Average and .908 save percentage. Considering his $7.425 million salary cap hit moving forward, the team will need him to return to form.
The Blue Jackets do have some exciting young talent to build around though. Brandon Saad (23 years old) and Boone Jenner (22) both scored over 30 goals this season. In addition, Cam Atkinson (26) tied Saad for the team lead with 53 points. On defense, Ryan Murray (22), David Savard (25) and Seth Jones (21) give the team a solid core to develop.
Pending Free Agents: The most notable free agent is Jones who was acquired in a mid-season trade. The former number four overall pick scored 20 points in 41 games with Columbus and is still growing. The team does not have a lot of cap room, but will need to use a good chunk of it to keep Jones long term. Right Winger Rene Bourque will likely not be re-signed.
Draft Picks: If the Jackets stay in the number four spot in the draft, they could take the best overall defenseman. However, considering they have Jones and Murray, there is a good chance they will take a top forward. They had to part with their top center, Ryan Johansen, to get Jones and this may be a way to bring back some of that scoring punch. Matthew Tkachuk, son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, could be an option.
Free Agent Additions: Free agency will be limited for Columbus based on their current cap situation. If they will sign someone, they will look for a veteran presence on defense to help develop the younger players. Adam Pardy of the the Winnipeg Jets or Christian Ehrhoff of the Chicago Blackhawks could be players to target.