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Team Reset

Blue Jackets solidify forward group by signing Riley Nash, Duclair

Retain restricted free agent Jenner with four-year, $15 million contract

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Correspondent

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

The Columbus Blue Jackets added to their forward depth by signing unrestricted free agents Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair, and they retained restricted free agent forward Boone Jenner with a four-year, $15 million contract, but Columbus enters the 2018-19 season facing uncertainty about two of its best players.

Forward Artemi Panarin, who set Blue Jackets records for assists (55) and points (82) in 2017-18, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner (2013, 2017) whose 37 wins were fifth in the NHL last season, each can become a UFA after this season.

Panarin reportedly is unsure about signing a long-term contract with the Blue Jackets.

 

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"That's the only thing at stake right now. If it was a two-year deal we probably would have done it," Panarin's agent, Daniel Milstein, told The Athletic on July 8. "But it isn't a two-year deal. It's [going to] have to be an extended, seven- or eight-year deal put in place."

Coach John Tortorella is in the final year of his contract with Columbus, which went 45-30-7 in 2017-18 to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in its history before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Here is what the Blue Jackets look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Riley Nash, F: The 29-year-old signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract July 1 after setting NHL career highs in goals (15), assists (26) and points (41) for the Boston Bruins last season. Nash is expected to compete for a third- or fourth-line spot and get time on the penalty kill. … Anthony Duclair, F: He signed a one-year, $650,000 contract July 6 after the Chicago Blackhawks did not extend him a qualifying offer. Duclair, who turns 23 on Aug. 26, had 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 56 games with the Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes last season. The Blue Jackets are hoping Duclair regains his form from 2015-16, when he had 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) as a rookie with the Coyotes. 

Video: CBJ@BOS: Riley Nash buries rebound for PPG

 

Key departures

Matt Calvert, F: He signed a three-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche on July 1. Calvert had 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 69 games in 2017-18 and was the longest-tenured Blue Jackets player (eight seasons). … Thomas Vanek, F: He signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1. Vanek had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and a plus-9 rating in 19 games after he was acquired in a trade from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 26. … Ian Cole, D: He signed a three-year contract with the Avalanche on July 1. He had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 20 games after he was acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 26. … Jack Johnson, D: He signed a five-year, $16.25 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1. Johnson had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 77 games in 2017-18 but did not play in the postseason.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Vanek knots score with deflection PPG

 

On the cusp

Vitaly Abramov, F: The 20-year-old was second in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in goals (45), assists (59) and points (104) last season in 56 games for Gatineau and Victoriaville. His plus-52 rating was second. A third-round pick (No. 65) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Abramov had left wrist surgery in May. The cast is expected to be removed in August, and he could make the Blue Jackets roster out of training camp.

 

What they still need

Center remains a question even after the acquisition of Nash. The Blue Jackets are relying on Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg to each rebound from a subpar season, and hoping Lukas Sedlak will make big strides in his third NHL season.

 

Fantasy focus 

Pierre-Luc Dubois will enter the season as the No. 1 center and will be looking to build on an impressive rookie season, when he had 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 82 games and four points (two goals, two assists) in six playoff games. Dubois likely will be even more productive if right wing Cam Atkinson, who finished second on Columbus with 24 goals, stays healthy after missing 17 games with a lower-body injury. The top line of Dubois, Atkinson and Panarin could be one of the most productive in the NHL, make the Blue Jackets a contender in the Eastern Conference, and help them win their first playoff series. Of course, that scenario depends on Panarin, a potential UFA in 2019, remaining with the team. The Blue Jackets are a team on the rise and have at least one elite fantasy option at each position. -- Rob Reese

Video: WSH@CBJ, Gm6: Dubois scores on one-timer in the 3rd

 

Projected lineup

Artemi Panarin -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner -- Alexander Wennberg -- Josh Anderson

Nick Foligno -- Riley Nash -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Sonny Milano -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Anthony Duclair

Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones

David Savard -- Markus Nutivaara

Ryan Murray -- Dean Kukan

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

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