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Team Reset

Blue Jackets confident with Nyquist joining strong core, prospect group

Forward could help replace Panarin's offense; Korpisalo, Merzlikins to split time in goal

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, is looking at where each team stands. Today, the Columbus Blue Jackets:

The Columbus Blue Jackets added forward Gustav Nyquist but largely will rely on young players from within the organization to complement the returning core this season after losing three top players during the first day of free agency.

The departures of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers) and forwards Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers) and Matt Duchene (Nashville Predators) left holes in the lineup, and the Blue Jackets also could lose forward Ryan Dzingel and defenseman Adam McQuaid, each of whom was acquired ahead of the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline but not pursued during free agency.

Columbus, though, remains confident moving forward.

"I think we have a strong team," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "I don't think that we have any huge holes."


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Nyquist signed a four-year contract July 1 and is expected to play a top-six role, possibly in Panarin's former spot on the first line with center Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson.

Forward Alexandre Texier, who made his NHL debut April 5, and forwards Emil Bemstrom and Liam Foudy are among the prospects who have a chance to make the roster.

The Blue Jackets believe goalie Joonas Korpisalo, Bobrovsky's backup since the 2015-16 season, is capable of taking on a larger role. Rookie Elvis Merzlikins likely will split time with Korpisalo this season.

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"We're comfortable where we are right now," Kekalainen said. "The core is in place. … We're in a great position as far as flexibility in our (NHL salary) cap situation, with our depth chart."

Here is what the Blue Jackets look like today:


Key arrival

Gustav Nyquist, F: The 29-year-old can play left wing or right wing and may find time on the No. 1 power play if he can build off last season, when he had an NHL career-high 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists) in 81 games for the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks. He had 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help San Jose reach the Western Conference Final.


Key departures

Sergei Bobrovsky, G: The 30-year-old signed a seven-year contract with the Panthers on July 1. In seven seasons with the Blue Jackets he won the Vezina Trophy twice (2013, 2017) and is Columbus' leader in wins (213) and shutouts (33). Last season he led the NHL with nine shutouts and was second with 37 wins, and helped the Blue Jackets win their first playoff series with a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. … Artemi Panarin, F: The 27-year-old agreed to terms on a seven-year contract with the Rangers on July 1. He set a Blue Jackets record with 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 79 games last season. In two seasons with Columbus, he had 169 points (55 goals, 114 assists) in 160 games. … Matt Duchene, F: The 28-year-old signed a seven-year contract with the Predators on July 1. He had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 23 regular-season games with Columbus after being acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 22, and 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 10 playoff games. … Keith Kinkaid, G: The 30-year-old signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on July 1. He didn't play with Columbus after being acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 25. He went 15-18-6 with a 3.36 GAA and .891 save percentage in 41 games last season.


On the cusp

Elvis Merzlikins, G: The 25-year-old signed a one-year contract May 15. A third-round pick (No. 76) in the 2014 NHL Draft, Merzlikins was named goalie of the year in National League A, the top league in Switzerland, in 2016 and 2018, and last season was 22-18-0 with a 2.44 GAA, a .921 save percentage and five shutouts in 43 games for Lugano. … Alexandre Texier, F: The France-born 19-year-old was selected in the second round (No. 45) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He had three points (two goals, one assist) in eight playoff games last season and will get a chance on the second or third line this season. … Emil Bemstrom, F: The 20-year-old, who signed a three-year entry-level contract May 14, led the Swedish Hockey League with 23 goals last season with Djurgarden and was named rookie of the year. … Vladislav Gavrikov, D: The 23-year-old made his NHL debut in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins. His plus-48 with SKA St. Petersburg led the Kontinental Hockey League last season. The sixth-round pick (No. 159) in the 2015 NHL Draft will contend for a spot on the third defense pair. … Liam Foudy, F: The No. 18 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft will have a chance to make the roster as a 19-year-old or will be returned to London of the Ontario Hockey League.


What they still need

Center depth. The Blue Jackets have been waiting for Alexander Wennberg to become the No. 2 center. Nyquist may be an option, although he has not played there recently.


Fantasy focus

The Blue Jackets no longer have Panarin or Duchene in their forward group, but fantasy owners shouldn't overlook rookie forward Alexandre Texier. Two of his three points in the playoffs came on the power play and he'll likely slot into the top-six forward group and be in the mix to play on the first power play this season. Texier, who will turn 20 on Sept. 13, is a high-upside rookie that likely will go undrafted in most fantasy leagues. -- Pete Jensen


Projected lineup

Gustav Nyquist -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Cam Atkinson

Alexandre Texier -- Alexander Wennberg -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Nick Foligno -- Boone Jenner -- Josh Anderson

Brandon Dubinsky -- Riley Nash -- Markus Hannikainen

Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones

Ryan Murray -- David Savard

Markus Nutivaara -- Vladislav Gavrikov

Joonas Korpisalo

Elvis Merzlikins

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