Last week, Ryan Real profiled some players who would be on the Blue Jackets’ radar leading up to the trade deadline. This included the big names like Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. It’s a good list; go read it if you haven’t already. One of the names, Ryan Donato, was just traded yesterday from Boston to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle.
As we creep closer and closer to the deadline, a sense of dread is creeping in that a Big Move will not happen. GM Jarmo Kekalainen had a tall order ahead of him: find a way to move one or both of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, while also acquiring another top 6 forward and a veteran goalie to keep his team in the playoff hunt. We knew that this would require time to set up, and could not be a last minute series of moves. We predicted this weeks ago, and...still nothing. We’re under 100 hours away from the deadline and still no action.
Because of that, I now suspect that the price to trade the Russians remains too high for prospective buyers. They provide value for Columbus down the stretch, so keeping them can be worth more than trading them for pennies on the dollar. On the flip side, the price to acquire a Stone or a Duchene may be too high for Jarmo to pay. If neither is willing to commit now to an extension, Jarmo may be hesitant to mortgage the future to go “all in” on a playoff run this season.
If those big moves will not happen, then I expect Jarmo to make a series of smaller moves like he did at last year’s trade deadline. By acquiring Thomas Vanek, Ian Cole, and Mark Letestu, the Jackets improved their depth and plugged a few holes. Vanek provided secondary scoring as a second line winger and Cole joined David Savard in forming a shut down second defensive pair.
For this list, I looked at teams that were out of playoff contention and therefore would look to move any of their pending unrestricted free agents. (Sidenote: good lord is the Western Conference a mess. So many teams are a mid-sized win streak away from the Wild Card. Minnesota has thrown in the towel, but some teams behind them may be looking to buy instead of sell)
Position: C, W
Season Stats: 57 GP, 22 G, 22 A, 44 P, 44.6% CF
Unlike the others on this list, Dzingel is a player who is young enough to be worth re-signing in the offseason. He played for Ohio State, so it’s reasonable to think he would be willing to stay in Columbus. He has a great shot, never shooting less than 11.4%, and shooting above 16% the last two seasons. The drawbacks: First, his Corsi numbers are bad, and we know how Torts hates forwards who can’t or won’t defend. Second, he has played a lot this season with Duchene and Stone. How much of his success is a result of his linemates?
New Jersey Devils
Position: C, W
Season Stats: 48 GP, 12 G, 15 A, 27 P, 48.5% CF
Johansson has had a disappointing season and a half in New Jersey and is likely to be on the move. But his successful career in Washington makes him worth looking at. His below-50 Corsi doesn’t seem as bad when you see that the Devils have given him more defensive zone than offensive zone starts. Like Dzingel, he has played both center and wing. He has a modified NTC, with 5 teams that he cannot be traded to. Would Columbus be on that list?
Detroit Red Wings
Season Stats: 59 GP, 15 G, 33 A, 48 P, 53.5% CF
Nyquist’s renaissance has been one of the lone bright spots for Detroit this season. He has lost a step, but is still producing points at a good rate. He could certainly help Columbus in a top 6 wing role. He has a full no trade clause but perhaps he would like to help his fellow Swede Alexander Wennberg rediscover his game.
Detroit Red Wings
Season Stats: 52 GP, 12 G, 17 A, 29 P, 48.1% CF
Hey, remember this guy? He teamed up with Wennberg and Boone Jenner to form a dominant second line last March, prior to Wennberg getting decapitated in the playoffs. Vanek tallied 7 goals and 8 assists in 19 regular season games for Columbus. This year he has remained productive despite averaging just 14 minutes a game. He also has a no trade clause, but I’m sure he’d be happy to return.
Season Stats: 59 GP, 17 G, 20 A, 37 P, 53.4% CF
Staal has a 10 team no trade clause and the last time he was moved at the deadline (from the Canes to the Rangers in 2016) it didn’t go well. Nonetheless, he remains a productive player here in his 15th season and would immediately fill the 2C role, allowing Jenner to slide back to wing.
Season Stats: 60 GP, 16 G, 11 A, 27 P, 48.4% CF
You know him, and like most fans in the NHL you probably hate him. Simmonds has a reputation as a pest and already has 88 penalty minutes this season (the current CBJ leader is Josh Anderson with just 54). Simmonds can score, and Torts would love him. He has a 12 team no trade clause.
Michael Del Zotto
Season Stats: 33 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 P, 50.3% CF
With Ryan Murray on the shelf (again), Columbus could use some defensive depth. Cole filled that role last year and Kyle Quincey did so the year before. Del Zotto was a disappointment in Vancouver and was traded to Anaheim last month. He had his best seasons in his age 19 and 21 years, when he played for Torts in New York. Could a reunion help him rediscover his mojo?
New York Rangers
Season Stats: 35 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P, 43.2% CF
He’s not good, but he’s available. Has had a 60/40 split of defensive to offensive zone starts this season. Fun fact: McQuaid was drafted by Columbus in the second round of the 2005 draft. He was traded to Boston in 2007 for a fifth round pick (that pick ended up being Jamie Benn, after we traded it to Dallas to move up and select Maksim Mayorov). New York would owe Boston a 7th round pick if they trade McQuaid, but they would get at least that much back in return for him.
New Jersey Devils
Season Stats: 51 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 P, 48.8% CF
Sure, Lovejoy is old as dirt, but
/realizes I was born the same year
///disintegrates into pile of dust
Anyway, Lovejoy is another stay-at-home defenseman. He brings valuable postseason experience, with 15 points in 63 career playoff games, including Pittsburgh’s 2016 Cup run.
Do any of these players sound like good fits for Columbus? Are there any targets you see that Ryan or I have missed?