Bruins Scouting Jackets Heavily
What prompted me to look deeper into a potential Gaborik deal was the twitter chatter from last night indicating that the Boston Bruins have been heavily scouting the Jackets lately, confirmed by Bruins insider Joe Haggerty.
Like we all do this time of year, I popped over to Cap Geek's Trade Machine.
I tried multiple iterations, some involving just Gaborik to the Bruins, while others included Nikita Nikitin, due to the reported need for defense in Boston. Looking back to what was reportedly offered by the Bruins for Jarome Iginla last year, I started with a return of Matt Bartkowski and Alexander Khokhlachev. Bartkowski is an Ohio State alum, so there's that. He's also a talented young defender who is about to hit his prime years. Khokhlachev is playing great for Providence of the AHL, and the strong Russian presence in the Jackets' dressing room would offer up plenty of mentors for the young Russian sniper.
The problem I was presented was of course, the dollars. Whether it was just Gaborik going, or if he was paired with Nikitin, the Bruins had to send salary to Columbus to make the deal compliant. The player I kept coming back to was Loui Eriksson.
At first, I was convinced. Gaborik and Nikitin for Eriksson, Bartkowski and Khokhlachev. Maybe some picks would be involved to balance, but that was the general framework. I reached out to Cornelius at SToC, and while he (and many other Bruins fans) are keen on the idea of acquiring Gaborik, after giving it more thought I don't think I'm convinced that Eriksson is the right return.
Eriksson has two more years left at a cap hit of $4.25 million per season. He's 28, at the tail-end of his prime years. Aside from the fact that he's dealt with injuries, his offensive game is not where it should be, and is he adept enough defensively to be a bottom-six fixture? For that matter, would you want a guy who sits at a $4.25 million cap hit being a bottom-six fixture? He seems to be another Umberger to me right now. This is NOT a post to argue whether or not Umberger should remain a Jacket after this year, but I do see Eriksson offering up a similar situation.
So where does that put the Jackets and Bruins?
There is an obvious link between Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and his countryman Gaborik. What the Bruins need is defense though, so could they have been just scouting the Columbus defense?
There's something there, but I just don't like what I see coming back to Columbus, unless Jarmo gets really creative.
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To the West Coast
If not the Bruins, maybe the Los Angeles Kings would have interest in Gaborik. Everybody and their dog knows that the Kings need scoring, but will they pay the Jackets what they'd want for his services? A package involving Alec Martinez (Miami of Ohio alum) and Valentin Zykov would make sense. You may remember I made no attempt to hide my adoration for Zykov leading up to last June's entry draft, while Martinez has one more year on his deal with a cap hit of $1.1 million. Once again, to make the dollars work a crappy contract would have to be included, with the likes of Jarett Stoll, Justin Williams or Willie Mitchell fitting the bill.
Williams is fourth in scoring for the Kings, so it's more likely that one of Stoll or Mitchell would be included.
A Winger for Spezza?
Could Gaborik be the winger that the Senators have been looking for to play alongside Jason Spezza? The Sens have cap space, and could offer Milan Michalek's expiring contract in return. Michalek would fit the Jackets' desire for a top-six forward, and if the Sens include a young player like Mike Hoffman or Matt Puempel, perhaps with a pick, there could be a deal there.
This is all speculation, of course. I'm convinced that Gaborik is on the move, but where does he end up? Do the Jackets pick up a top-six winger or defenseman in a Gaborik deal? Or is he traded for futures and a top-six forward or defenseman is acquired in a separate deal? The Jackets are buyers, so strap in and enjoy the ride!