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Blue Jackets fire GM Kekalainen, Davidson assumes interim role

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen - Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets have fired general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in his 11th season with the team, announcing president of hockey operations John Davidson will assume the duties as the team searches for a replacement. 

The Blue Jackets currently sit last in the Eastern Conference, falling 6-3 to the Ottawa Senators, who sit just above them, on Tuesday night.

“This is one of the hardest days I have had in my career as Jarmo is a friend, someone I have a great deal of respect for and someone who has done a lot of good things during his time here,” said Davidson.  “While the future of our club is bright, our performance has not been good enough and it is time for a fresh perspective as we move forward.”

Kekalainen, 57, was named the third general manager in Blue Jackets history on Feb. 13, 2013, with Columbus reaching the playoffs five teams in his 10 seasons entering this year. The team reached the second round of the postseason just once, falling to the Boston Bruins in six games in 2019. Columbus is on track to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season this year. 

TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun notes Kekalainen had one year remaining on his contract.

“On behalf of our ownership group, I’d like to thank Jarmo for his hard work and commitment over the past 11 years,” said Blue Jackets majority owner and governor John P. McConnell.  “He and Tiina, and their daughters, are special people who will always be a part of our Blue Jackets family and I wish them the very best in the next chapter of their lives.”


Trade deadline looms for Blue Jackets

With just over three weeks remaining until the trade deadline, Davidson will be left to navigate the team's path through March 8.

Three members of the Blue Jackets were listed on the updated TSN Trade Bait board Wednesday, with Jack Roslovic leading the way at No. 14, followed by defencemen Andrew Peeke (No. 35) and Adam Boqvist (No. 44).

There has also been reported trade interest in forward Boone Jenner, but the team's captain told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic 

this week he wants to be part of the rebuild in Columbus and help guide the team back to the postseason in the future.

“I want our group to become a successful team, to make the playoffs and be relevant, get ourselves back on the map as a team,” Jenner said. “I know we have it in here, and we’re going through the process right now.

“I want to be a part of that and what we can become on the other side. We have a lot of work to be done. We have a long way to go, I know that, but we can get there. And I want to be part of that.”

The 30-year-old forward, who missed time earlier this season with a broken jaw, has 16 goals and 21 points in 37 games. He carries a cap hit of $3.75 million through the 2025-26 season. Selected 37th overall by Columbus in the 2011 draft, Jenner said he'd like to be a career Blue Jacket.

“It’s really cool to be in one spot for your whole career,” Jenner said. “And it’s really rare.

“I’m just really fortunate to be here this long, to be part of this organization, to play in this city for these fans. That’s how I look at it.”


Tumultuous season in Columbus

It's been a turbulent year for the Blue Jackets, with head coach Mike Babcock resigning in September before he even spent one game behind the bench. 

Babcock announced his resignation following investigations by the team, NHL and NHLPA into his conduct during his brief time with the club.

“Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction,” Babcock said in statement at the time. “While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”

Columbus named Pascal Vincent as head coach on the same day Babcock resigned, with the 52-year-old going 16-26-10 to date in his first stint as an NHL bench boss.

More details to follow.