Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Usually, star players who end up in a Blue Jackets jersey for one reason or another don’t stay in a CBJ jersey. In late June of 2017, Columbus made a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire left winger Artemi Panarin. Two years later in 2019, Columbus also acquired center Matt Duchene from the Ottawa Senators. These moves signaled to the rest of the NHL the Jackets saw an opportunity to make noise in the playoffs, and they wanted to seize it.
The 2018-2019 Blue Jackets became the first team in franchise history to win a first-round playoff series by sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had the best record in the NHL during the regular season. The Jackets’ magic carpet ride would come to an in the second-round at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
Once their magical 2019 season came to an end, the Blue Jackets had to face the reality of the situation. They weren’t going to be able to keep their star players, such as left winger Artemi Panarin, center Matt Duchene and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as they all went to other teams.
The Lightning would get their revenge on the Blue Jackets in 2020 as they eliminated Columbus in five games. The Blue Jackets have not been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since. A two-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought was too long of a wait for general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen, so he went out and made moves this offseason that should put the Jackets in a position to get back to the playoffs.
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The biggest prize of free agency was left winger Johnny Gaudreau. In 82 games last season, Gaudreau had mind-blowing stats, including 40 goals, 75 assists and 115 points. For his career, Gaudreau has played in 602 games, scored 210 goals, wracked up 399 assists and totaled 609 points. From 2013-2022, Gaudreau spent his career north of the border in Calgary with the Flames.
Columbus was not thought of as a destination for Gaudreau. Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York Islanders were considered the front-runners for the nine-year veteran. There was also a possibility that Gaudreau might go back to the Calgary Flames, where he spent his whole career. When Gaudreau chose to sign with the Blue Jackets, hockey fans and media members were taken aback since star players don’t willingly go to Columbus. The Jackets generally have to trade for them or draft and develop them.
It does seem like Columbus is slowly changing the stigma around them. They traded for a star player last season in left winger Patrick Laine, who is considered to be an upper echelon player. The feeling was Laine was going the route of Panarin and head to another team (Panarin signed with the Metro Division rival New York Rangers). However, Laine willingly chose to resign with the Blue Jackets.
For years, the Blue Jackets have not been able to acquire star talent via free agency, but with the talent Kekäläinen added over the summer, the Jackets seem poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup this season.
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