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Jackets add physical blueliner in Melart

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

In his short time as general manager of the Blue Jackets, Jarmo Kekalainen has made it clear that he's open to all options when looking to improve his team.

There was a blockbuster deal at the NHL trading deadline, new contracts for the team's core young players and today, the club signed a solid stay-at-home defenseman from HIFK in the Finnish Elite League. Ilari Melart, 24, joins the Blue Jackets organization on a one-year entry level contract and provides a unique element among the team's group of defensemen.

Not known as a flashy guy by any means, Melart has made a name for himself as an even-keeled, sturdy player who plays a simple game and isn't afraid to throw his weight around. Checking in at 6-foot-3 and a whopping 227 lbs., it's fairly easy to see why opponents aren't fond of playing against him.

“We’re very pleased to be adding Ilari to our organization,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement issued by the team. “He’s coming off of a strong season in one of the top professional leagues in Europe and played well for Finland at the World Championships.

"We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in North America.”

Melart has played the majority of his professional career with HIFK in Finland and holds a +12 rating in 146 total games. In the recently-completed 2012-13 campaign, Melart registered seven goals, 18 points and was charged with 29 penalty minutes in the club's seven-game playoff run.

Here's what has to say about Melart:

"A defensive player who likes to play physically. Plays a simple game in the defensive zone and isn't very offensive. Has a decent shot. Needs to improve his speed and skating."

On the surface, it appears as though the Blue Jackets and their European scouts saw a player they liked and want to see what he can bring to the North American game. With a one-year deal to work with, Melart has a clear-cut opportunity to prove himself and potentially stick with the Blue Jackets.

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