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Christmas is coming and the Columbus Blue Jackets are sending a letter to Santa Claus. What do they want and need for the 2020-21 season and beyond?

The NHL is expected to return to play in mid-January, as training camps open in just a few weeks. Making the playoffs isn’t Columbus’ goal, but a deep run and raising the Cup are on their “wish list.” What will it take to make that happen? Here are five presents the Blue Jackets would like to see under the tree this year.

#5 Big Years from the Young Wingers

When projecting the Blue Jackets’ lineup for 2021, the intrepid team of Blue Jackets columnists at The Hockey Writers were unanimous in predicting that Alexandre Texier Jersey (age 21) will play on the top line alongside center Pierre-Luc Dubois Jersey (22). Liam Foudy Jersey (20) and Emil Bemstrom Jersey (21) should see ice time early in the season while winger Gus Nyquist recovers from surgery.

Alexandre Texier Columbus Blue Jackets
Alexandre Texier, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
It’s tempting to add Oliver Bjorkstrand Jersey and Eric Robinson Jersey to this list but, believe it or not, both are already 25, as is newly-acquired center Max Domi Jersey.

#4 Kraken Prefer Goaltending to Defense in the Expansion Draft
Not long after the 2021 Stanley Cup is awarded, the Seattle Kraken will decide on the core of the newest NHL team through the Expansion Draft. The rules for the draft are the same as those used by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, where each team, other than Vegas (exempt from the draft), can protect certain players, but the rules are designed to ensure that quality players are made available to the Kraken.

We can’t read the minds of the Blue Jackets’ brain trust, but we can (and, of course, will) speculate. Likewise, we don’t know what Seattle’s plans are. Will they lean toward the older, more experienced goalies who are likely to be available, including Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars, as projected by The Athletic (“Seattle Kraken expansion mock draft 5.0: Who could the Stars lose?” Dec. 8, 2020) and Dallas Stars Daily Links? Perhaps Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings or Corey Crawford of the New Jersey Devils? Or will they select young goalies with great upside? Or a couple of each?

Columbus has a pair of star goalies right now: one is exempt from the draft because he is a second-year player (Elvis Merzlikins Jersey) and one who should be protected (Joonas Korpisalo Jersey). The organization has three good prospects in the pipeline: Daniil Tarasov, Veini Vehviläinen, and Matiss Kivlenieks Jersey. According to the expansion rules, at least one goalie must be exposed. Kivlenieks is the most likely candidate.

Matiss Kivlenieks Columbus Blue Jackets
Matiss Kivlenieks, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Why would the Blue Jackets wish to lose a goalie with potential? Because the likely alternative is to lose defenseman Dean Kukan Jersey. After trading Ryan Murray Jersey and Markus Nutivaara Jersey, the team’s defensive depth isn’t what it once was. And because the club will probably protect Seth Jones Jersey, Zach Wertenski, and Vladislav Gavrikov Jersey, Kukan is the most tempting player exposed.

Dean Kukan Columbus Blue Jackets
Dean Kukan, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
The Blue Jackets, of course, have other players who will be unprotected and available to the Kraken. I expect the list to include D-men David Savard Jersey, Gabriel Carlsson Jersey, and Scott Harrington Jersey, as well as forwards Nick Foligno Jersey, Mikhail Grigorenko Jersey, and a half-dozen others. But Seattle’s decision will likely come down to Kukan or Kivlenieks, and Columbus can afford to lose the latter more than the former.

#3 Healthy Goalies
The 2019-20 season was a nightmare of injuries. Shortly after being selected for the NHL All-Star Game, Korpisalo went down with a knee injury. Merzlikins took over the crease and became a star, but he too was knocked out of the lineup by injury, twice (a concussion in February and a groin pull in the postseason).

Related: Blue Jackets: The 5 Most Significant Injuries of 2019-20

The 2021 season is likely to include a compressed schedule, perhaps with a higher percentage of back-to-back games than usual. Having two healthy goalies, either of whom can steal a game, will be an advantage for Columbus, which is expected to be a low-scoring team – unless:

#2 A Trade Partner Offering a Scoring Winger
If there’s one area where the Blue Jackets need help, it’s scoring. The 2019-20 season saw Columbus tied for third-fewest goals scored in the league (tied with the Stars who went to the Stanley Cup Final, but, still…) General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen may sign a free agent, such as Mike Hoffman, but he may also play the waiting game and hope to steal a proven goal scorer from one of the 10 or so teams currently over the salary cap.

Mike Hoffman, Brandon Dubinsky Jersey
How would Mike Hoffman look in (rather than against) a Blue Jackets sweater? (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
He has low-cost players on entry-level contracts who could be swapped for a player with a higher cap hit, and some prospects and draft choices could be dangled in front of teams with a cap problem.

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It was a season of firsts for the Blue Jackets, none more important than when Robert Kron won the first-ever faceoff in Blue Jackets history from Alexei Zhamnov of the Chicago Blackhawks.

That was the moment NHL hockey in Columbus became real, with Oct. 7, 2000, serving as the culmination of a decade’s worth of dreaming and years of planning.

Finally, four years after the first application was submitted to the NHL for a team, three years after the city had been awarded an expansion franchise and after two years of construction on a downtown arena, the first game in Blue Jackets history signaled a new era for the city.

To this day, the names on the inaugural team still remain etched in Blue Jackets lore, from top scorers Geoff Sanderson Jersey and Espen Knutsen to tough guys Tyler Wright Jersey and Kevin Dineen to the veteran wiles of captain Lyle Odelein Jersey and goalie Ron Tugnutt. Assembled by general manager Doug MacLean through trades, free agency and the expansion draft, they came from all over the NHL and the world to become the first to put on the union blue sweater.

And they thrilled raucous crowds that flocked to Nationwide Arena, including the one on that opening night that could hardly believe its eyes when the Blue Jackets opened a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of franchise history. Bruce Gardiner scored the historic first-ever goal off assists from Krzysztof Oliwa and Kevyn Adams 7:34 into the game, and David Vyborny Jersey and Steve Heinze followed in the next two minutes to nearly blow the freshly completed roof off the building.

But fans would come to know the fickle nature of the sport of hockey, and quickly. Chicago tied the score in the second period and went on to ruin opening night with a 5-3 victory, but the Blue Jackets would soon know the taste of triumph.

The first-ever Blue Jackets win came Oct. 12, as Columbus earned a 3-2 win at Calgary thanks to Adams’ tiebreaking third-period goal. A 3-1 win over Washington on Oct. 27 earned the first home win, and the Blue Jackets were off and running.

Columbus would go on to finish 28-39-9-6 under head coach Dave King, tying the Blackhawks with 71 points for fourth place in the Central Division, but the city’s love affair with hockey was already evident.

There were plenty of highlights from the season, which ended with a bang when the Blackhawks returned to town and Wright scored in overtime to make the Blue Jackets walkoff winners at the end of their first campaign.

Milestones were aplenty, from Tugnutt’s first-ever CBJ shutout in a Dec. 18 win over Montreal to Sanderson’s inaugural hat trick as he tallied all three goals in a Feb. 10 victory against Nashville. On March 24, Knutsen became the first Blue Jacket to earn five points in a game as Columbus earned a thrilling 6-4 victory over Calgary.

On the season, Sanderson led the way with 30 goals and 56 points, with Knutsen’s 42 assists part of his 53-point NHL debut campaign. Heinze added 22 goals and 42 points, while Wright, Vyborny, Serge Aubin and Jamie Heward each finished with double-digit goals. Tugnutt won 22 games, a record for an expansion team goalie, and a 2.44 goals-against average even though his spoof ‘Vote Tugnutt’ presidential campaign didn’t quite get off the ground.

All in all, the groundwork was set for what was to come at the corner of Front and Nationwide.