As the Jackets trudge through what's left of the 2015-2016 season, it's easy to look ahead to next year and think of how different the roster could look come opening day in October. There could be absolute roster upheaval, or perhaps, like the deadline, the management team can find themselves still standing when the music stops.
I decided to have some fun with this, sitting in my hypothetical armchair with my imagination and other people's money at my disposal.
1) Fedor Tyutin and a mid rounder in 2017 to Detroit for Brendan Smith. This is all about buying a year of roster flexibility. Tyutin is signed for two more seasons after this one at $4.5 million per season, while Smith has a year remaining at a hit of $2.75 million before reaching unrestricted free agency. A recent healthy scratch in Detroit, he'll have a year to impress the Jackets, but if he fails to do so they won't be on the hook long term. The sweetener pick is to offset the term imbalance.
2) Kerby Rychel to the Canadiens for Noah Juulsen. A swap of recent first rounders, Rychel gives the Habs a power forward prospect while the Jackets get a smooth-skating blueliner with offensive upside. Juulsen will need time in Lake Erie.
3) Scott Hartnell and a pick to Minnesota for Thomas Vanek. Stick with me here - this trade, like the Tyutin deal, is about financials. These players offer similar production, but though Vanek has a higher cap hit ($6.5 million vs. $4.75 million), Vanek only has one year remaining on his deal to Hartnell's three. Anything the Jackets get from Vanek next season is gravy.
4) The Jackets get at least the third overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. With that pick, they take Patrik Laine, because in this narrative the first two picks were Auston Matthews and Jesse Puljujarvi.
5) Rene Bourque departs via free agency. Jared Boll is sent to Lake Erie. Dalton Prout's rights are traded to a team that needs toughness. (See how easy that was??) Sonny Milano, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Daniel Zaar and Josh Anderson battle in training camp, with one player making the Jackets. He will be known as Player X.
Would you be OK with this lineup on opening day 2016:
Jones - Murray
It would be a transition year for the Jackets, but there's enough there that they could surprise. The hope would be that Laine has an immediate impact and displaces Vanek by the end of the season. Player X has a solid rookie year and earns more ice time. Somehow, some way, the Clarkson thing gets rectified. Until then, he's at least a healthy scratch.
Smith would be a great partner for Savard, watching the latter's back as he joins the rush. Johnson can mentor his fellow Wolverine alum. The Jackets would have Michael Paliotta, Gabriel Carlsson, Noah Juulsen and Dillon Heatherington in the defense pipeline.
Bob would need to have an injury-free season for this team to compete, which may be a tall order given how this season has unfolded.
Thanks for playing along with this fun exercise, have at it in the comments with some moves you'd like to see this offseason.