COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekäläinen spoke with members of the media Tuesday previewing NHL free agency, which begins Wednesday.
The most important free agency question for Kekäläinen is where the team stands on trying to re-sign restricted free agent winger Patrik Laine.
Laine dazzled for much of last season, averaging a point per game when healthy. He was particularly dominant from late January through late February when he recorded an 11-game point streak — the third-longest in franchise history. He scored the second-most goals (26) and tallied the third-most points (56) behind only Jakub Voracek and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
“They’ve expressed they want me here and I’ve expressed the same,” Laine said in a post-season interview on April 30. “We have a great group of guys I got to be really close with and I’m excited about the youth we have and the opportunities we’re going to have in a couple years and definitely want to be a part of it.”
The Blue Jackets made a qualifying offer to Laine on Monday and added he’s “not worried” about bringing Laine back on a long-term deal.
Aside from Laine, Kekäläinen said the team doesn’t focus on building through free agency.
“We draft and develop and make sure we educate them the right way to become Blue Jackets,” he said. “I don’t think the [unrestricted free agency] market is or has been in the past very successful at fitting guys in.”