The ice is out of every rink in the NHL now. The playing surface in Boston's HD Garden probably disappeared quicker than the sheet in Chicago given the Bruins meltdown upon it Monday night.

The NHL's off-season has begun. Most players head north to cottages or golf courses. Fans in eager cities--like Columbus-- have a countdown clock to October.

It's summer vacation time all over the league yet no one is working harder than the boys in the front office on Nationwide Boulevard.

Yes, the guys n Denver are busy answering their phones. In Philly, they are once again doing a goalie evaluation trying to decide if Steve Mason can be "the guy". In Vancouver, the load is on the marketing and PR guys to turn their new head coach into a guy Canucks fans can embrace without getting their mouth guards shoved down their throats.

But here in Columbus the work is detailed and requires the expertise and creativity of a fine chef gathering ingrediants for a winning recipe.

The Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen are smart enough to know what ingrediants they need. But this is no easy trip to the grocery store.

At this writing, the Blue Jackets have three picks in the first round of Sunday's NHL draft.

They also have the NHL's Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky waiting to be presented with a new contract.

They are millions of dollars under the NHL's salary cap which gives them space to pursue a free agent or two.

They have a fan base starving for a winner. That fan base  was brought into the restaurant last spring, seated at the table, handed a menu, served drinks and then told they could not eat.

That fan base now sits with its nosed pressed up against the kitchen window. They are watching closely to see what is prepared.

Those who pay close attention believe the Jackets will trade at least one of their draft picks either for a chance to move up in this year's draft or for a proven NHL player who can help the team immediately.

They could package a pick or two with a prospect and/or a veteran player off their roster to move even higher.

They could trade a pick and a prospect to move up 10 spots. Then trade that pick again to move even higher.

The possibilities are endless which is why this week is critical for this organization.

The NHL draft is deep this year. It is headlined by players like defenseman Seth Jones, forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. The experts will tell you any pick in the top five could bring a player who could jump onto an NHL roster in the fall.

But right now the Jackets highest pick is 14th so there is much work to be done if the CBJ want to make a splash this week.

What about Bob?

As if the looming draft weren't critical enough, the one player who's blocker prints are all over last spring's amazingly dramatic run to the cusp of the playoffs remains unsigned.

Sergei Bobrovsky came to Columbus last summer as a ho-hum "maybe-this-will-work" goalie hoping to share time with Steve Mason.

He rode out of Nationwide Arena having started 37 of the team's 48 games. He won 21 of them including eight of the last nine.

"Bob" earned himself icon status in those 37 games as people in Columbus recognized the number 72 as something other than a number an Ohio State lineman wears.

Ron Tugnutt captured fans hearts between the pipes. So did Marc Denis and Steve Mason.

Bob, with his "just-stop-the-puck" mentality under his mask and a Vezina Trophy under his arm has done something more.

He is the reason behind the belief this team is finally close to cresting the NHL playoff hill.

He is the reason people from the coaching staff to upper bowl believed this team could and can win every time the puck is dropped.

He is a restricted free agent which means any team can float him an offer and the Blue Jackets will have to match it if they want to keep him.

He is a Russian who his countrymen would love to see stay home and play for the KHL and they are willing to pay him a pile of rubles.

Back in the kitchen with J.D. and Jarmo, Bob is known as a crucial ingredient.

So as long summer days take you to your favorite dock or bait shop or 19th hole, remember there is still a lot of work to be done at Nationwide Arena.

Come fall, all those summer hours could deliver exactly what Jackets fans have been craving.