Former St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is reportedly the leading candidate to become the next GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
According to multiple sources of The Hockey News, Kekalainen will likely be introduced as the club’s new GM at Wednesday’s press conference, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET.
Furthering this speculation are reports that Jokerit — the Finnish league club currently employing Kekalainen as GM — will also hold a press conference on Wednesday, presumably to announce Kekalainen’s departure.
On Tuesday evening, the Blue Jackets fired Scott Howson after he spent five-plus years as the team’s general manager.
While hardly a household name, Kekalainen is held in high regard within NHL circles. He spent three years in the league as a player, splitting time between Boston and Ottawa.
He returned to Ottawa in the late 90s, serving as the club’s player personnel director until 2002. During his tenure, the Sens had a solid draft record and selected a number of key figures, including Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Anton Volchenkov and Ray Emery.
After Ottawa, Kekalainen moved to the Blues organization, where he worked as the Director of Amateur Scouting and served as assistant to GM Larry Pleau.
His draft record with St. Louis was equally impressive to his work in Ottawa — during Kekalainen’s tenure, the Blues drafted the likes of David Backes, Erik Johnson, David Perron, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Alex Pietrangelo.
It was also in St. Louis where Kekalainen worked with Columbus’ current President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson.
It should be noted that Kekalainen left the Blues organization around the same time Doug Armstrong was chosen as Pleau’s successor as GM, opting to return to his native Finland to take the GM job at Jokerit.
According to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, Kekalainen’s in year three of a five-year pact with Jokerit, but is believed to have an NHL “out” clause.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie notes that Kekalainen would be the NHL’s first European general manager.