Reports from the Dispatch's Aaron Portzline and TSN's Darren Dreger indicate that the Blue Jackets would be willing to part with one of their first round picks at this year's NHL draft to obtain scoring help at the trade deadline.
Back off the ledge and shut the window before you finish reading this, because this isn't nearly as crazy as it sounds.
First off, it's worth considering that while the New York Rangers are slipping out of playoff position, and don't seem to be trending towards getting back in, the Kings are at 5th in the West and might even catch the Ducks for the Pacific lead with a little luck, while the Jackets are sitting in 8th and show reasonable possibilities for making some noise - particularly if they can get some scoring help.
We talked about how the team should deal from their deepest available assets, and use their strengths to help fix their weaknesses. It's a fair point that if you have three first round picks, that's a deep pool, too.
A great discussion broke loose on twitter after the news started to hit, and I think there's some valid things to take away.
- This isn't a rental - If, and remember it's still an IF the pick is moved, the indications are that the team wants a player who can be a contributor for the next several years. Right now The Fourth Period team has Columbus linked to talks for Drew Stafford over in Buffalo, which would give them a scoring winger signed for another two years at $4 million a year. (FWIW, I like Stafford, who has been a pretty consistent 40 point+ guy the last several years, and think this season is more about that entire team collapsing). That's a good model. Young, but with good NHL experience, consistent performance, and signed for term. I'd be shocked if they don't get a player with at least one, if not two more seasons left on his deal, and don't be surprised if they try for a player who would be an RFA after their current deal expires.
- There are ALWAYS conditions - Don't be shocked at all if any trades involve conditions for which pick is actually sent over. The most obvious is that the asset going back from Columbus will be their final pick in the first round. That way, they don't tie it to a particular team's pick. (After all, wouldn't it suck to offer up LA's first rounder, only to see them suddenly fall out of contention and win the lottery?) There's also the possibility of offering the team's second round pick, with the condition that it turns into (again) their lowest first round pick if the team advances past the first round of the playoffs, which could be a nice win/win.
- Playoff Experience - I'd be shocked if the team doesn't target someone with at least a playoff series or two under their belt. They want guys who understand what it's going to take to break through and make an impact, not just this month, but into the early Summer.
- Small, but Potent - The market for scoring forwards may be limited because of so many teams still being in the race, but there's a difference between small and nonexistent. Stafford, as I mentioned, might work. Philly has guys like Sean Couturier, Matt Read, or even Jakub Voracek. (If Philly is seriously interested in Steve Mason, maybe some kind of package deal?) Teddy Purcell, if he's on the market, would be interesting. Blake Comeau probably isn't worth a first rounder, but I'd sure offer up our second or third round pick for him. Heck, if you really want to swing for the fences...why not call Colorado and ask about Matt Duchene? Never hurts to see what might shake loose from the tree.
- Stats, Stats, Stats, Stats - Remember that Jarmo has spent a lot of time stressing the importance of advanced hockey stats and metrics. Expect to see players targeted who show strong PDO, VUKOTA, and Corsi scores. I wouldn't expect to see players who have one good season and a lot of average showings. If they're going to give up a major asset for the future, they want someone who will be a proven commodity, not a fluke likely to regress.
- One pick is not the whole draft - Jeff Little had a great series on the NHL draft where he broke down how many players fail to pan out, even in the first round. One pick of the three, particularly a pick from the bottom third of the draft order, isn't the same as giving up a lottery pick. Honestly, in some ways, I think it's smarter to get a player who can come in and contribute for the next 2-3 seasons with that pick than loading too many expectations on a bunch of 18 year olds and watching them buckle under the stress.
- No Guarantees - Remember how everyone thought the Jackets were in great position to make the playoffs when they added scoring punch by trading for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto at the deadline? How'd that work out?
A lot of things are happening, and it's likely to get very interesting over the next 48 hours. We'll love it, we'll hate it, and we'll probably wish it was all over with. But be honest - isn't this more fun than sitting and trying to figure out the lottery odds and wondering which players will be on their way out the door before sunset?