The Columbus Blue Jackets head into the trade deadline on Monday reeling of late – the team lost five games in a row heading into last night’s contest with the Philadelphia Flyers, a game that saw the team get their teeth kicked in and extend the losing streak to six as well as fall out of a playoff spot.
With the team hurting in the standings over the last two weeks as well as hurting on the injury report, do not expect the team to make any significant moves to add at the trade deadline. The Blue Jackets have shown an ability to get hot, but the talent on the roster and healthy right now is a far cry from the group that upset last year’s Tampa Bay Lightning. There is no Matt Duchene walking through the doors and onto the ice at Nationwide Arena this season.
As a result, what can we expect from General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen as we head toward Monday at 3 PM?
Where Jarmo might look to make moves is by selling current roster players for picks and prospects. This is not the season nor the roster many expected to see as the team entered the stretch run in Columbus. Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Joonas Korpisalo, Josh Anderson … the injury list is long, and is averaging more than 5 man games lost per game at this point this season. Given these injuries and the recent slide, could the Blue Jackets actually be sellers at this year’s deadline?
Before pelting me with tomatoes, let’s think this through. The Jackets, even if they make the playoffs, are not likely to make a Stanley Cup run. The best skater on the team likely wouldn’t appear until the second round (if the team made it), and goalscoring has been marginal-to-bad for much of the year. That’s not a winning formula in the postseason. Is now the time for Jarmo to punt on some of the players who he may not re-sign, try to leverage the market for pieces that can help in the future, and reload for a better run next year with Seth Jones healthy and Liam Foudy added to the forward group? It could be!
There are players on the roster that other teams might covet as they gear up for their own runs. Also, we’re seeing right now, this is a seller’s market. Look at the return Tyler Toffoli fetched on Monday:
Tim Schaller is apparently the NHL player going back the other way. https://t.co/nwNhRgNgY1— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 18, 2020
That’s an awful lot for a player in the final year of his contract! The Jackets have two players in similar situations nearing the end of their deals, one of whom has been the subject of trade rumors already this season: Josh Anderson and David Savard.
Savard, particularly, is an interesting case for the trade market. A right-handed shot, Savard has been a shutdown defenseman on the second pairing this year. He has one year left on his contact at $4.25 million (along with a remaining cap hit of $1.07 million this season). Savard is 29 and could contribute to a team down the stretch and in the playoffs. In addition, the Jackets would be selling from a position of strength: the Jackets, when healthy, have nine defensemen on one-way contracts (plus Andrew Peeke). Selling an aging Savard could help the team for years to come. In addition, the price to add defensemen at the deadline is high. Given the return for Toffoli (an expiring contract), Savard could fetch at least a top-end prospect and a first round pick on the trading block.
If this deal gets done, I would expect the likely return to be two second-round picks. Martinez, BTW, has one year left on his contract beyond this season.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 18, 2020
Comparisons suggest the return for Savard could be high.
Another option is Josh Anderson. Anderson has been injured for much of the season, and he was not scoring when he was in the lineup. However, his best attributes (size and speed) are something any team would crave in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Teams have been sniffing around, and his name has appeared on multiple trade lists this season. All indications are that it would have to be an overwhelming effort to see the Jackets part with their power forward.
Two other options that the team could ship off for lesser parts would be Riley Nash and Sonny Milano. Milano, first, is a clear “change of scenery” player. He has been given chances in Columbus but has not taken advantage of them. At the same time, his skill is evident but he is perhaps not utilized properly by the coaching staff (example: shooting behind Nathan Gerbe and Kevin Stenlund in the shootout against New Jersey). Both parties would likely benefit from a parting of the ways. Riley Nash, on the other hand, could benefit a team looking to solidify the bottom six. With Wennberg and Stenlund on the roster, the Jackets have a glut of bottom six centers and Nash could fill a vital penalty killing and defensive zone role for a team in need (think something similar to watch Patrick Maroon did for the St. Louis Blues last season), and with one year remaining at $2.75 million, he has an easily movable contract in advance of the deadline.
I wouldn’t expect the Jackets to make a move as drastic as these unless another team makes Jarmo an offer he cannot refuse, but I would certainly expect him to be listening to calls ahead of Monday’s deadline.
With the team as injured as it is, making a significant addition ahead of the deadline is the most unlikely option for the team moving forward. Any major addition would require sacrificing a major roster piece or their first-round pick (the latter of which Jarmo Kekalainen has said he is unwilling to do at this time).
With those caveats, it is highly unlikely the team makes any significant additions via trade until the summer around the NHL Entry Draft when more players are likely to be available.
There was an interesting note on Tuesday, however:
Believe #Canucks and #CBJ among teams that poked around on Martinez over last little bit. #njdevils helped #LAKings on return with Greene deal; original ask was a 2nd + prospect. Blake likely (tomorrow?) to land two 2nds with the term on Martinez's contract.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) February 18, 2020
The most likely, and most boring, option! Hooray, status quo!
The Jackets have had a LOT of time this year to get a look at players in their prospect pool, a look at both goaltenders, and try to figure out who can replace aging players (Nick Foligno, Riley Nash, etc) as those contracts expire in the next couple of years. As the team gets kind-of, sort-of healthy down the stretch, the Jackets can fit their young players back into the lineup and work with others who have earned more ice time (such as Kevin Stenlund, for example) and begin planning for what needs to address in the summer and how best to approach next season when the team is fully healthy.
It’s a boring option, but it’s also the most prudent one at this current time.
What do you expect to see from the Jackets at the deadline? Sound off in the comments below!