July 1 was known in the hockey world as the day everyone left the Blue Jackets.
While the focus to many pundits was on the departures of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene, on that day, one man put pen to paper and pledged four seasons to Columbus.
As it turns out, the signing of Gus Nyquist has been one of the shrewdest acquisitions of the offseason.
In his first 46 games with Columbus, Nyquist has 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points. He's on pace for 55 points, which would be the second most of his career, and on top of that, he's the kind of player who grows on you as the season goes on.
His point totals are good, for sure. But the more you watch him, the more you realize just how impactful a player he is at the NHL level.
"I think the more I've watched him this year, the more I've respected his game and understood the player he is," said Zach Werenski, who has spent recent offseasons playing at times with Nyquist in suburban Detroit in the Eastside Elite league.
"He's a guy you don't hear about too much until you're on the same team as him. You know he's a good player, but you don't really hear much about him. I think he had 60 points last year, so that's a lot of points. I think he does a lot of work away from the puck that's really good defensively. I think that's something that if you don't play with him, you don't really understand and don't see too much. He's been awesome for us."
As the season has gone on, head coach Tortorella has found more and more ways to use Nyquist, including as a penalty killer for the first time in his career. And each time Nyquist's performance has been brought up to John Tortorella, the head coach can't help but give credit to his general manager for having the 30-year-old veteran at his disposal.
"He's a utility player," Tortorella said. "He's up and down with the lines. We're turning him into a penalty killer. I think he's embraced that and done a really good job there. I think he's really good in tight spaces.
"I've said it from day one when I started watching him play -- it's a terrific signing by (general manager) Jarmo Kekalainen where we had summer of departures. He's been a mainstay for us this year."
Nyquist spent his first seven-plus seasons playing with Detroit, where he burst onto the scene in 2013-14 with 28 goals and added 27 a year after that. He's averaged 50 points per 82 games in his career, but his true breakout season was a year ago when he had a 22-38-60 line while splitting the season with the Red Wings and San Jose.
You never know how signings are going to go, but when the Blue Jackets inked Nyquist, he was the kind of player who fit in seamlessly when he arrived in Columbus.
"They told me what he is, and he is that," Tortorella said. "I think I'm putting a lot of ice time to him, putting him in a lot of situations. I think he's getting better and better. It's a really big signing for us as he entered the year, and it's proved to help us."
Nyquist said that from his perspective, being in Columbus has been an easy transition. After spending his first seven-plus seasons in Detroit, Nyquist is more than happy to be in the Midwest after growing up in Sweden. And when he had the chance to join a growing young team in Columbus with a chance to win, it was an easy decision to sign with the Blue Jackets.
"It's been great," he said. "I'm super happy here. You don't really know what to expect when you're coming to a new organization. So far it's been great, and I really like what we've been doing here lately. It's been a good first half."
As Nyquist talked, he joked that it's been difficult to fit into a locker room led by someone like Nick Foligno, who sat next to him and laughed as he said, "You should have done your homework."
But with how Nyquist has become a key cog in a resurgent Blue Jackets team, it's clear he's fit in from day one. He's played in all situations and been an important part of a team that has points in 15 of its last 17 games and is in the midst of another playoff race.
"I've gotten maybe a little more opportunity on the defensive side this year, which I enjoy and I take pride in so it's been fun to learn that side of the game," Nyquist said. "Overall, I think our team, it's really a team effort. We roll four lines here, and everyone is playing and contributing. Everyone has been doing that, and I think that's great."