Blue Jackets hire Don Waddell as president of hockey operations and general manager

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Blue Jackets have hired a new president of hockey operations who will also serve as general manager.

Don Waddell will take both roles after six years with the Carolina Hurricanes. Waddell replaces former general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who was fired in February, and will step in for former president of hockey operations John Davidson, who will transition into a senior adviser role after an 18-year career as a hockey executive. Davidson served two stints as president of hockey operations with the Blue Jackets, from 2012 to ’19 and then returning in 2021.

Waddell comes to central Ohio after announcing his resignation from Carolina on Friday. During his six years in Raleigh, the Hurricanes won three division titles and made the playoffs in each season, getting as far as the Eastern Conference finals in 2023.

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“We remain committed to providing all the necessary resources to build a team and organization that competes for the Stanley Cup,” Blue Jackets majority owner John P. McConnell said in a news release.  “After spending time getting to know Don, I believe his experience and leadership will take us down the path to success.”

Waddell took over in Carolina after a stretch of nine seasons with no playoff appearances. Notable players the Hurricanes acquired during his tenure included all-star right winger Andre Svechnikov, all-star defender Brent Burns, and all-star winger Jake Guentzel.

“I’ve known Don for many years, and he is one of the great gentlemen in our business,” Davidson said.  “He is a very smart, dedicated professional who has shown a great ability to bring people together to work towards a common goal and achieve success.”

Waddell will hope his success in Carolina will translate in Columbus as the Blue Jackets look to turn a four-year playoff drought into a consistent run of success. They haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2019-20 season and have finished last in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference in the last two seasons.

In 2023-24, the Jackets had the fourth fewest points (66) in the league. The team has gone through numerous front office and roster changes in the last two years, including the firing of head coach Brad Larsen last year, the hiring and firing of coach Mike Babcock within a three-month span, and the hiring of current coach Pascal Vincent.

The Jackets own the fourth overall pick in the draft, which will take place in June 28 and 29 in Las Vegas.

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