Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen stayed aggressive in the final hours of the NHL trade deadline, adding two more players and keeping his two star unrestricted free agents Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin.
After picking up scoring punch in separate deals with Ottowa for Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, Kekalainen turned to defense with the additions of goalie Keith Kinkaid of New Jersey and defenseman Adam McQuaid of the New York Rangers. Again, Keklainen parted with draft picks to add depth for the stretch run.
With 21 games left, the Blue Jackets are third in the Metropolitan Division with 73 points. They're 4 points back of second place Washington and 6 behind the division leading New York Islanders. Right on the heels of the Jackets are Carolina and Pittsburgh with 72 points. The Jackets host the Penguins tonight.
The message from Keklainen has been sent. He believes the Jackets can win now and are poised for a run.
"We have a two time Vezina Trophy winner in our net, we have Seth Jones who belongs in the conversation for the Norris Trophy, Adam McQuaid adds toughness and character into that group and is a good defender and we're very balanced with four lines," Kekalainen said. "We have enough skill, we have enough scoring, we have some power play skill added with Duchene, a great face off man, so I think we have a lot that you need to compete."
By holding on to Bob and Panarin, and dealing away most of his 2019 draft picks, the perception may be that Kekalaien has mortgaged the future to try to make a run right now. While the GM acknowledges that he believes the future is now, he also thinks, no matter what happens this summer, the Jackets are on solid ground long term.
"I'm not worried about our future and that's why we were able to do this," Kekalainen said. "Ottawa did get good prospects but we still have good prospects...great prospects left."
Hello...This is John Tortorella
It's a reporter no-no to not silence your phone before a press conference. Tom Reed, beat writer for "The Athletic" covering the Blue Jackets, did just that. Nonethless, with his iPhone on buzz, and at the podium to record the comments of John Tortorella, it became a distraction to the Jackets coach. Reed's mom was calling and the phone buzzed multiple times. Finally the coach decided to take matters into his own hands and playfully picked up.
"Mrs. Reed... Hi, this is John Tortorella. I'm in the middle of a press conference here," Tortorella said. "No, that's OK, I'd rather talk to you than your son."
It was a light hearted moment between coach, reporter and the press corps. You can check it out here.. Well done Torts!