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Penguins Metro Foe Fires GM Before Trade Deadline



Jarmo Kekalainen

The Columbus Blue Jackets, the only team below the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings, on Thursday fired long-time general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.

The firing comes nearly 11 years to the day after Kekalainen was hired in Columbus by Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson, who will step in now as GM during the team’s hiring search.

Kekalainen, who is Finnish, was the first European GM in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets (16-26-10) sit last in the Eastern Conference. They are 3-6-1 in their past 10 games. The acquisitions of Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau have not paid dividends. The team has not made the playoffs for three seasons running, finished last in the Metro Divison last season, and is on pace to finish last again.

The hockey betting sites had long ago forsaken any chance for Columbus to make the playoffs or contend while the team awaits the arrival of prospects such as Kent Johnson, who was taken fifth overall in 2021 and is currently playing in the AHL, and Luca Fantilli, taken third overall in the 2023 NHL Draft and currently playing at the University of Michigan.

The team has made the playoffs only six times in their 23-year history and won only one Round One series (they also won a Qualifying Round in the 2020 Stanley Cup tournament bubble).

The Penguins’ next game against Columbus is March 5 at home.

Here is the news release from the Blue Jackets:

The Columbus Blue Jackets have relieved Jarmo Kekalainen of his duties as general manager of the National Hockey League club, President of Hockey Operations and Alternate Governor John Davidson announced today. Davidson, along with the team’s hockey operations management team, will assume general manager’s duties while the club goes through the process of hiring a replacement.

Media availability with Davidson will be streamed live on the Blue Jackets’ YouTube page at 11:30 a.m. ET today and will be recorded and posted afterward on

Pittsburgh Penguins game, Sidney Crosby, Elvis Merzlikins

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates a goal against Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

“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. The club amassed a 410-362-97 record in 869 games during his tenure, which is the longest in franchise history. Columbus qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) and posted its four winningest seasons based on points percentage during that span: 2016-17 (50-24-8, 108 pts., .659), 2018-19 (47-31-4, 98 pts., .598), 2017-18 (45-30-7, 97 pts., .591) and 2019-20 (33-22-15, 81 pts., .579).

“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.”