The Columbus Blue Jackets may have more moves in the works this offseason, which could include a free-agent signing or two.
On Thursday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported during an appearance on NHL Network that the Blue Jackets remain "very interested" in free agents Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund, two of the top players still available on the market.
"I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of those players is a Blue Jacket by the time the season starts," Friedman said.
Hoffman entered free agency as one of the top offensive players availabley. He's scored at least 22 goals in each of the past six seasons, and he tallied 129 points (65 goals and 64 assists) in 151 games for the Florida Panthers over the past two campaigns.
Granlund had at least 39 points for six straight seasons from 2013 to 2019 and then put up 30 points (17 goals and 13 assists) in 63 games for the Nashville Predators in 2019-20.
It's not a sure thing that Columbus will sign either player, though. Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch recently noted that while the Blue Jackets must fill their "gaping hole at left wing on their second line" with either a veteran or one of their prospects, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was leaning toward the latter.
Whether or not Columbus signs Hoffman, Granlund or another unrestricted free agent, one player they could ink to a new deal is center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who is a restricted free agent. The Blue Jackets own his rights and can match any offer sheet the 22-year-old center receives from another team.
Friedman reported that Columbus was "worried" about Dubois getting an offer sheet, but he remains confident that the Blue Jackets and Dubois will agree to a new deal before the start of the season. Friedman noted that a signing may not have occurred because Columbus is "moving several different pieces around at once," which includes its pursuit of other free agents.
Dubois was selected by the Blue Jackets with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, and he's tallied 158 points (65 goals and 93 assists) in 234 games over his first three seasons with the team. He's been an instrumental part of Columbus' offense since debuting in 2017 and is poised to anchor the first line in 2020-21 and beyond.
While there's some uncertainty regarding the Blue Jackets' offensive lines and who could fill those remaining spots, one position that may not undergo any changes this offseason is goaltender. Hedger reported that Columbus is unlikely to trade either Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins to clear cap space. Should the team change its mind, there are veteran free-agent goaltenders available, such as Cory Schneider, Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson.
It's still unknown when the 2020-21 season will get underway, with the league targeting Jan. 1. Regardless, Columbus has plenty of time to get its roster finalized for the campaign. And when it is, the Blue Jackets should again be poised for a strong season after winning a playoff series in each of the past two years.