Columbus Blue Jackets notebook: coaching search, RFAs, prospect updates (2024)

Don Waddell’s search for the Blue Jackets’ head coach is nearing its conclusion.

A list that began with 12 names on it is down to three, according to the Jackets’ new president of hockey operations/general manager. What names remain?

Good question.

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“Everybody tries to get names from me,” Waddell said. “My wife even tries to get names from me. It’s just not happening.”

One of the bigger coaching names available, however, is not among the Jackets’ finalists. The Dispatch was told Sunday that Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks, will not be considered for the Blue Jackets’ vacancy despite gaining reinstatement from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Quenneville, 65, resigned from the Florida Panthers in 2021 following a Chicago Blackhawks investigation that showed he and others ignored allegations by former Blackhawks player Kyle Beach that he'd been sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich during a 2010 Stanley Cup playoff run.

The Blue Jackets are likely shying away from Quenneville due to their own coaching controversy involving Mike Babco*ck, who resigned78 days into the job amid allegations that he violated some players’ privacy while rifling through their cellphones in meetings.

Todd McLellan, fired by the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 2, has garnered the most discussion about coaching the Blue Jackets. In June, ESPN’s John Buccigross posted on Twitter/X that McLellan, 56, was “getting traction” to be the next head coach in Columbus. The Dispatch has also spoken with NHL sources who believe McLellan tops the list.

One of the sources believed a contract offer was extended, but Waddell told The Dispatch at the time that no offers had been extended to any candidates. It’s unclear whether that has changed, but Waddell is nearing a decision and it’sdown to three options.

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Others who reportedly have been mentioned include Tampa Bay Lightning assistant Jeff Blashill — former coach of Detroit Red Wings who knows Waddellthrough USA Hockey — and former Edmonton Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft, a longtime NHL assistant for McLellan.

Columbus Blue Jackets negotiating with restricted free agents who filed for salary arbitration

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The Blue Jackets have three restricted free agents who filed for player-elected salary arbitration prior to the NHL’s 5 p.m. ET deadline Friday.

The Jackets can still negotiate with forward Kirill Marchenko, defenseman Jake Christiansen and goalie Jet Greaves up until a hearing date assigned within the league’s July 20-Aug. 4 window. The Blue Jackets have never had a player reach an arbitration hearing, and Waddellisn’t concerned about it happening.

Waddell said he was confident that all five of the Jackets’ RFAs will get new contracts done without drama ― including Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger, who haven’t attained arbitration eligibility.

“We’ll get those deals done,” Waddell said. “There’s no urgency on (Johnson and Silllinger), and I’ve met with (agent) Dan Milstein on ‘Marchy.’ It’s all going to happen in time.”

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Marchenko has logged the most NHL time among the three RFAs who filed. Christiansen and Greaves have each spent the bulk of their professional careers with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters.

Should any of the arbitration filings go to a hearing, an arbitrator will issue a ruling on the player’s salary. Arbitration is generally seen as negotiating leverage for RFAs that is most oftenused toaccelerate negotiations. Sillinger, who doesn't have arbitration rights, cansign a contract offer sheet from another teams to force the Blue Jackets to keep him by matching it or allowing him to leave for compensation (draft picks).

Johnson is classified as a “10.2(c)” free agent who hasn’t logged enough NHL service time to file for arbitration or sign an offer sheet. Trade requests or training camp holdouts are the lone negotiating tactics for players in his situation, but Waddell doesn’t foresee either happening.

Columbus Blue Jackets defensem*n Guillaume Richard, Aidan Hreschukentering senior seasons without NHL contract assurances

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Two Blue Jackets defenseman prospects are nearing the end of their college careers, which means decisions will be made next spring or summer about their futures.

Guillaume Richard will be a senior at Providence and Aidan Hreschuk will be a senior at Boston College.

Waddell originally selected Hreschuk in the third round of the 2021 NHL draft (No. 94) asthe Carolina Hurricanes’ GM and then traded his rights to the Blue Jackets in March 2022 as part of a multi-team dealto acquire forward Max Domi. The Blue Jackets selected Richard in the fourth round of the 2021 draft (No. 101) under the tenure of former GM Jarmo Kekalainen.

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Both players attended the Blue Jackets’ development camp last week at the Ice Haus attached to Nationwide Arena and should hold important roles for their college teams.

Should the Blue Jackets extend an NHL entry-level contractto either next spring, it will be up to each player to decide whether to sign or wait until an Aug. 15, 2025 deadline to become an unrestricted free agent. It’s a loophole built into the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players’ Association that allows NCAA players whohaven't signed four years after their draft year to hit the open market.

It might be a toss-up whether the Blue Jackets extend either one a contract, but having a strong senior season could change the scenario either way for each defenseman. The Dispatch caught up with Richard last week and asked about his plans at this stage.

More: Columbus Blue Jackets reunite with defenseman Jack Johnson

“Columbus invested a lot of time in me, I’ve invested a lot of time in Columbus, and I want to be a Blue Jacket,” he said. “That is the plan. I want to have a great season at Providence, and then join the Blue Jackets organization. That’s the path I’m planning to go.”


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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets notebook: coaching search, RFAs, prospect updates

Columbus Blue Jackets notebook: coaching search, RFAs, prospect updates (2024)
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