In this odd season in which play was halted and 24 teams made the playoffs, the team with arguably the best blue line ended its season unable to secure a 2-goal third period lead and ultimately fell in OT.
Where does this franchise go from here?
One thing is for sure, there are no salary cap issues to deal with. There are not any high value UFAs to try to re-sign. Most likely the hockey world will not hear much about Columbus until the start of the 2021 season, whenever that may be.
For now the CBJ front office simply has the task of lining up RFA contracts. PLD will get a significant pay increase, while Gavrikov may also land a notable contract as well. The other RFAs looking to start the 2021 season on the CBJ roster include Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund, Jacob Lilja with Ryan MacInnis, Kole Sherwood and Gabriel Carlsson also likely to see some time in Columbus in 2021 as well.
There isn't really a huge task in signing those RFAs. The surprise performer to come out of that group may end up being Kevin Stenlund. We saw some of what he can do this season and he was given an opportunity in the playoffs too.
Is there any chance of landing the BIG FISH of the off season Taylor Hall. I wouldn't hold my breath. Could Hoffman, Dadonov or Haula leave the sunshine state for a staring role in Columbus? That may be more likely, similar move as getting Gus last off season. I'm going to go out on a limb here and so 'No' to any of those three as well.
My feeling is that Jarmo is content with developing they guys he has. There is belief that Texier, Foudy and Bemstrom will carry this team in scoring in the next few seasons. PLD took a leading role in the playoffs and his ability to carry play into the zone will pay big dividends next season. If the before mentioned are the scorers of the future who is going to put it in the net in 2021? Bjork, of course, and hopefully Cam. But other than that, who can provide consistent scoring.
I'm sticking to my narrative that the CBJ will not be a real contender until they get some scoring. It doesn't have to be a super star, but it has to be consistent. The younger players may provide that, but not in 2021. I wish they would prove me wrong, and with luck they will, because I don't think JK is making any trades or signing any top-scoring free agents. I believe this is another off-season of standing pat.
Developing from within isn't a bad strategy, but it's the long game. I'm okay with that but as we have seen, a few (or even just one) of the top scorers leave town and it sets back this strategy. The trade for Breadman was great, but I don't think the plan was to only have him around for 2 seasons. Likewise with Duchene, a first round pick is a high price for a rental.
My concern is that JK took the big swing keeping Panarin and Bob along with going out and getting Duchene. It didn't exactly work out. Beating TBL was fun, battling with BOS was awesome, but ultimately the Jackets have been past the first round of the playoffs one time and never past the second round.
The other thing that nobody is talking about is how John Davidson's departure has impacted this organization. He helped right-the-ship. The path forward was much more clear and well planned with his guidance.
These is all just food for thought as we move into what is likely to be a dull off season for this franchise. Maybe we will get a pleasant surprise?
Good Luck, Stay Safe, Go Jackets!