Welcome to NHL draft week.
Over the coming days, the work to reshape the Blue Jackets roster will take place in earnest. The draft begins Friday, to be followed by the team's annual development camp, the restricted free agent period, and then the opening of the NHL free agency window.
And as it begins, very few teams have been discussed as much as the Columbus Blue Jackets. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen and his team knew going into the February trade deadline that stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky were unrestricted free agents-to-be, and conventional NHL wisdom said it would make sense to consider trading them before potentially seeing them leave over the summer.
Instead, Kekalainen was aggressive at the deadline, acquiring four more potential UFAs in Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid.
Of course, it paid off with the franchise's first-ever postseason series win in the opening round vs. Tampa Bay, though the ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup wasn't in the cards as Columbus lost to Boston in the second round. The moves cemented Kekalainen's reputation as a general manager without fear when it comes to making the big move, but to many the plan came with great risk.
As a result of a number of deals, Columbus at this moment goes into this week's draft boasting just two picks -- a third-rounder (81 overall) and a seventh-round choice (212 overall). With all six pending UFAs still unsigned, an air of uncertainty reigns over the Blue Jackets' offseason plans.
So where does the team go from here? BlueJackets.com sat down with Kekalainen in his office last week to talk about the draft, free agency and other plans for next season.