Blue Jackets’ Davidson, Kekalainen and Zito Receive Extensions: Report

The Columbus Blue Jackets have re-signed president of hockey operations, John Davidson, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and assistant GM Bill Zito each to two-year contract extensions, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday.

Davidson worked with Kekalainen before arriving in Columbus.(Columbus Blue Jackets)
Davidson worked with Kekalainen before arriving in Columbus.(Columbus Blue Jackets)

Davidson, 63, has been with the Blue Jackets since October 2012 after serving as president of hockey operations with the St. Louis Blues from 2006 to 2012. Since arriving in Columbus, the Blue Jackets have had the team’s best four-year run in franchise history, despite qualifying for the playoffs just once. During that timeframe, the Blue Jackets have posted a 143-124-7 record and made the playoffs in 2013-14.

The franchise suffered a bit of a road bump in 2015-16 and finished 27th in the league. After receiving the third pick at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Davidson and his staff shocked the hockey world when the team chose Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujärvi. While Dubois has no shortage of talent, Puljujärvi was widely considered to be a lock for the third selection at the draft behind forwards Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Puljujärvi was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the fourth overall pick.

NHL Draft, Jarmo Kekalainen, Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jackets sign Jacob Graves
Kekalainen is the first European GM in the NHL.

Kekalainen, 50, has served as the GM of the Blue Jackets since being hired by the club in February 2013. Kekalainen worked with Davidson as part of the Blues’ front office, when he served as assistant GM and director of amateur scouting as the team drafted many of its core players including David Backes, Patrik Berglund and Alex Pietrangelo. Kekalainen left the Blues when he was offered the GM position with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League before becoming the first European GM in the NHL when he was hired by the Blue Jackets. Kekalainen also served as the assistant GM of the bronze medal-winning Team Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Zito, 52, as hired by the Blue Jackets as assistant GM in August 2013 after a successful career as a sports agent at Acme World Sports, a company he founded in 1995. Zito also serves as the GM of the Cleveland Monsters– the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate. Zito also was part of the management group that helped build the bronze medal-winning Team USA at the 2015 World Championships.

Today’s report on the contract extensions of Davidson, Kekalainen and Zito shows Blue Jackets fans that ownership trusts this management team with the future of the franchise.