With the Columbus Blue Jackets season now over, hopeful eyes turn toward next season. Who can this team add to help improve on a franchise best season? Are there ways to shore up weak spots? Can the team use some of its plethora of prospects to add a veteran center or a goal scoring winger?
One of the players the team could potentially add is Vladislav Gavrikov. Gavrikov was chosen in the 6th round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (159th overall by the Blue Jackets). Listed at 6’3” and 214 pounds and sporting a left handed shot, the Russian defenseman is every general managers dream, possessing the size and skills to be a shutdown defenseman in the NHL. According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets want to bring him to North America from the KHL.
Gavrikov has the ability to play as a shutdown stay at home defenseman, something no NHL team can ever have too many of. Gavrikov could step right in to an already young defensive group in Columbus, joining fellow youngsters Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Markus Nutivaara, Ryan Murray, and Gabriel Carlsson.
Gavrikov will never be known as a scoring leader like Jones or Werenski, registering just 3 goals and 4 assists in the 2016-17 KHL season. What the Blue Jackets could use Gavrikov for is a stabilizing presence on the back end, someone with the ability to break up plays in the neutral zone and allow the other defensemen to step up into the play while having cover on the back end.
At this time, it remains unclear if Gavrikov will make the move to North America this summer to join the team. If he does, however, that move could have a drastic impact on another blue liner - Ryan Murray.
Murray, the former #2 overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, has had a disappointing start to his career, to say the least. He has missed time with varying shoulder, knee, foot, and hand injuries. He has been productive when he has been healthy; unfortunately, he cannot stay healthy. This season, with a wealth of young and hungry defensemen eager to make their mark on the team, Murray was relegated to 3rd pairing minutes, spending most of the year with rookie Nutivaara before a broken hand ended his season prematurely.
With so many young and promising defensemen in the pipeline, would GM Jarmo Kekäläinen consider moving Murray? Murray has shown promise when healthy, playing all 82 games in the 2015-16 season including first pairing minutes when Seth Jones arrived in January before Zach Werenski relegated him to the third pairing this year. Murray could perhaps benefit from a change of scenery, and packaging Murray together with a prospect or a pick could bring some needed goal scoring help back in return.
As noted, this is all speculation at this point. Gavrikov will have to make a decision this summer to come to North America or not, and every other decision will snowball from there. In the meantime, Jackets fans will speculate over the future of the blue line.