Brandon Saad has tallied 14 goals across the last two postseasons

Brandon Saad has tallied 14 goals across the last two postseasons

Last year: 42-35-5, fifth in the Metro Division. Missed the playoffs by nine points.

Key additions: Brandon Saad, Gregory Campbell, Zach Werenski, Gabriel Carlsson, Mike Paliotta, Paul Bittner

Key subtractions: Marko Dano, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu, Jeremy Morin, Jack Skille

Offense: A team already loaded with young talent pulled off the shocker of the offseason by landing the 22-year-old Saad from Chicago. In the process, Columbus identified its three pillars up front to build around, with Saad joining superstar in the making Ryan Johansen and new captain Nick Foligno. Former Ranger Brandon Dubinsky was a critical cog as recently as 12 months ago, but he’ll be in more of a depth role going forward and will be expected to provide a tremendous example for the younger players. David Clarkson’s contract sticks out like a sore thumb and Scott Hartnell might join him before long, but it hardly matters. The aforementioned trio along with Boone Jenner, Alex Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson and Matt Calvert represent the present and future for Columbus, with top prospects Sonny Milano, William Karlsson, Kerby Rychel and Oliver Bjorkstrand following close behind. The Jackets have an embarrassment of riches and just need to take some time to determine who else is part of the core alongside Johansen, Foligno and Saad.

Defense: Injuries ruined any chance this unit had last season and it will take some time for Columbus to assess its personnel on the blueline. In the midst of the carnage David Savard emerged as a keeper, with high hopes remaining for 21-year-old Ryan Murray. Jack Johnson, the black sheep of the #fancystats community, still eats major minutes, but that might not last much longer. Veteran Fedor Tyutin is a solid guiding hand, but his best days are long behind him. Kevin Connauton posted eye-popping numbers in his brief time with the organization and will be under the microscope early on this season. The Blue Jackets need a couple of players to step up from the roster fringe group  of Connauton, pugilist Dalton Prout, journeymen Cody Goloubef and Justin Falk, and Saad deal throw-in Paliotta. But the future of this group is Savard, Werenski and Murray.

Franchise direction: If you’re looking for the 2015-2016 version of the Lightning, this might be it. Columbus still has a lot of work to do on the back-end, but the Jackets could easily pair a couple of their young forwards for a difference-maker that could solidify things in a hurry. An injury-plagued year might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened for this club, as coach Todd Richards has a better idea of who his leaders are and who can be sacrificed as the Jackets hit the fast-track to contention.

More offseason recaps: Penguins, Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes, Flyers

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