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April 13, 2012 | 5:20pm ET
Blue Jackets mapping out game plan
TheFourthPeriod.com

The Columbus Blue Jackets, now understanding what position they'll select from in this summer's NHL Entry Draft, are trying to determine how their team could look like next season.

With their draft position now clear -- the team will select second-overall and also owns Los Angeles' first-round pick -- the focus now appears to be on interim head coach Todd Richards.

Richards, who replaced Scott Arniel on Jan. 9, has a good shot at staying on as the club's full time bench boss, though it's believed GM Scott Howson and his staff will weigh their options and could interview other candidates for the job.

As the team goes through its decision process pertaining to its coach, the team must also decide whether or not it plans on re-signing some of its impending free agents.

Forwards Kristian Huselius, Darryl Boyce, Derek MacKenzie and Ryan Russell, defensemen Radek Martinek, Brett Lebda and Aaron Johnson, and goalie Curtis Sanford are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

It's uncertain if any of these players will be brought back, though the Blue Jackets are expected to try and sign Sanford to a new contract.

Forwards Jared Boll and Derek Dorsett, and defenseman Nikita Nikitin are all eligible for restricted free agent status, though the team plans on keeping all three of them.

Howson, who is likely to remain on board as the club's GM, barring a last minute decision from ownership, is expected to be very active on the trade front again this off-season.

The Blue Jackets will try to acquire new No. 1 goaltender this summer, as it's becoming more and more clear that Steve Mason's tenure in Columbus could be over.

Howson is also expected to explore several other trade scenarios, as he's expected to shop the likes of R.J. Umberger, Fedor Tyutin and Rick Nash, all of whom were dangled as trade bait this season.

"We are proceeding with a heightened sense of urgency and committed to our plan to bring our fans and the city of Columbus a winning team that ultimately achieves our goal of winning a Stanley Cup," Howson told the Blue Jackets website this week.

Nash, whom Howson revealed requested to be traded during his post-trade deadline press conference, is expected to be moved this summer. The San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers were among the teams extremely interested in Nash, who provided a list of teams he'd accept a deal to.

It's uncertain if Nash will modify his list this summer, though Columbus' asking price isn't expected to change.

If Nash is dealt, the Blue Jackets will want at least one top-six young forward as part of a package that will include a top defensive prospect, another young forward and potentially a first-round draft pick.

Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch reported earlier this week that if Nash is dealt, defenseman Jack Johnson could become the club's next captain.

Johnson was acquired from the Kings, along with a first-round pick, for center Jeff Carter.

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