For the previous entry in this series of 2022-23 season previews where I cover the Colorado Avalanche, click here.
Blue Jackets forward, Patrik Laine (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Blue Jackets fans, rejoice! Your team had a completely unforeseen offseason, as Jarmo Kekäläinen and the rest of the front office were hard at work making sure that the Jackets would be a competitive team in the 2022-23 season.
In one of the biggest surprise twists we've seen in a long time, the Columbus Blue Jackets swept in at the last minute to beat out the likes of the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders to land this year's premiere free agent, Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau and the Jackets agreed to a 7-year, $68.25 million contract, and then days later Columbus signed their RFA Patrik Laine to 4-year, $34.8 million deal, effectively making Gaudreau and Laine Columbus' new star-duo.
Gaudreau finished last season fourth in Hart Trophy voting as league MVP, with 115 points on 40 goals and 75 assists in a full 82 games played. While Laine dealt with injury last year, he still finished the season with 56 points on 26 goals and 30 assists in 56 games, making him a point-per-game player when healthy.
The Blue Jackets weren't done making noise, however. Columbus brought in defenseman, Erik Gudbranson, on a 4-year, $16 million contract, followed up by a trade with the Nashville Predators that saw the Jackets acquire forward, Mathieu Oliver, in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
On top of Columbus' strong offseason acquisitions, they still have guys like Jack Roslovic, Gustav Nyquist, Boone Jenner, Jakub Voracek and Zach Werenski to work with, all of which were with the team when they finished 37-38-7 last season with 81 points. Are the additions of Gaudreau and Gudbranson enough to catapult Columbus out of mediocrity and into the playoffs? Honestly, I'd put a very small wager on it. They have a decent shot, what have you got to lose? I already placed my bet. The Jackets are +600 to make the playoffs, so it doesn't hurt to put a little faith in them and potentially get yourself a nice return.