Though the Columbus Blue Jackets were among the quieter teams during the first hours of free agency, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen has certainly been busy. In the days before and after, the Blue Jackets added several new names and faces to the roster while extending the contracts of some of his biggest players (though Ryan Johansen has yet to be signed).
For the most part, the Blue Jackets seem to be sticking with what works; in addition to retaining their coaching staff, many of the moves they’ve made have been extensions, building on a strategy that got them farther in the playoffs last year than the club has ever been.
Far and away the biggest move Kekalainen and the Jackets have made so far is the re-signing of centerman Brandon Dubinsky to a six-year contract extension. Dubinsky, a cornerstone of the Blue Jackets’ core, expressed his excitement at staying with the team in a press conference held shortly after the announcements. He has registered 99 goals and 184 assists in 498 NHL games, and led Columbus in assists (tying for second in points_ in six games during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dubinsky, notable both for his excellent play and for what Kekalainen called “tenacity” (though “temper” wouldn’t be far off as a fair substitute), has also registered 631 penalty minutes in his NHL career (37 in last year’s postseason).
Among the Blue Jackets’ first order of business was extending the contract of defenseman Dalton Prout, who finished last season with a +9 and 62 penalty minutes. He has also totaled 3 goals and 10 assists in 82 career NHL games and finished seventh on the Blue Jackets last season in blocked shots (65 in 49 games). Prout signed a two-year, one-way contract with Columbus days before he would have been eligible for restricted free agency.
Forward Corey Tropp, who played 44 games with the Blue Jackets last season, signed a two-year contract extension with the club. Tropp tallied two goals, eight assists, 37 penalty minutes and a team-high +11 plus/minus in his appearances. The Jackets have built a roster around the idea of consistency and depth, and Tropp certainly fits that bill.
On a shorter-term contract–one-year, two-way–the Blue Jackets re-signed defenseman Cody Goloubef. He appeared in only five games with the Jackets in the 2013-2014 season, but registered 7-21-28, 98 PIM, and a +9 plus/minus for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons in 62 games.
Finally, the Blue Jackets signed centerman Sean Collins to a one-year, two-way contract for 2014-2015. Collins appeared in six games for the Blue Jackets last season, tallying one assist. In 67 games with the Springfield Falcons, Collins registered 16-25-41 and 34 penalty minutes.
The Jackets also signed forward Brian Gibbons away from the Pittsburgh Penguins on a one-year, two-way contract after Gibbons entered free agency. Gibbons has bounced back and forth between the NHL and the AHL for Pittsburgh, tallying five goals, seven assists, and a +5 plus/minus rating in 41 games for Pittsburgh in 2013-2014. Gibbons appeared in eight games during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, registering 2-1-3 and 2 PIM; in the 10 Calder Cup playoff games he registered 1-2-3 and 18 PIM. Gibbons is notable for his speed, which could provide the Blue Jackets with some of Pittsburgh’s notoriously fancy stick-work up front.
On the other side of things, the Blue Jackets sent Matt Frattin back to Toronto in exchange for forward Jerry D’Amigo and a conditional seventh round draft pick. D’Amigo appeared in 22 games with Toronto last season, his first in the NHL. In 70 appearances with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, he tallied one goal, two assists, and 17-12-29 and twice represented the United States at the IIHF World Championships, winning gold in 2010 and bronze in 2011. D’Amigo plays right wing.