COLUMBUS, OHIO - The Columbus Blue Jackets announced today multi-year contract extensions for President of Hockey Operations and Alternate Governor John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen, while Assistant General Manager Bill Zito also agreed to an extension and has been promoted to associate general manager.
"Under John Davidson's leadership, our club has made great strides over the past six seasons and this long-term commitment speaks to the confidence that our ownership group, led by John P. McConnell, has in his vision for our team," said Blue Jackets President Mike Priest. "The plan implemented by our hockey operations senior management team is working and we are pleased that these talented and committed individuals will continue to lead our hockey operations efforts for years to come."
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Davidson joined the Blue Jackets in October 2012 following a 2011-12 season in which the club went 29-46-7 with a league-low 65 points. Under his leadership, Columbus has compiled a record of 238-178-42 (.566 points percentage) compared to 342-441-119 (.445) in the club's first 11 seasons, won 42 or more games in four of the past five campaigns and registered three-straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history from 2012-15. The Blue Jackets have also earned three of the club's four Stanley Cup Playoffs berths in the past five years.
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"I was thrilled to join this organization six years ago and my excitement about this franchise and this community is greater today than it was then, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue the work we've done in building a winning team for our great fans," said Davidson. "I am also extremely happy to announce contract extensions for Jarmo Kekalainen and Bill Zito. They are very intelligent, hard-working and dedicated individuals that have established an excellent scouting and player development program that has been critically important to our growth and improvement as a hockey club."
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Kekalainen was named the club's general manager on Feb. 13, 2013 and is the first European-born general manager in National Hockey League history. During his tenure, the Blue Jackets have added depth throughout the organization and built a team that has compiled the fourth-most wins in the NHL over the past two seasons while competing as one of the league's youngest clubs. Columbus is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time after compiling the best record in franchise history (50-24-8, 108 pts.) in 2016-17 and the second-best mark (45-30-7, 97 pts.) in 2017-18. The Blue Jackets' 95 wins during that span trail only Washington (107), Pittsburgh (97) and Tampa Bay (96). The Kuopio, Finland native has also served as assistant general manager for Finland at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where the squad won the bronze medal.
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Zito joined the organization as assistant general manager in August 2013. In addition to playing an integral role in club matters related to contract negotiations, scouting and player development, salary cap management and budgeting, he also serves as the general manager of the Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate. In 2016, the Monsters became the first Columbus affiliate to capture the AHL's Calder Cup championship and the club has posted two of the best three records in the franchise's 11-year history over the past three campaigns. In addition, he served as general manager for the United States Men's National Team that won a bronze medal at the 2018 IIHF World Championships in Denmark and was a member of Team USA's management team at the 2015 IIHF World Championships.