It’s no secret that the Blue Jackets
want need to upgrade their defensive corps with an infusion of size, physicality and experience. Jarmo Kekalainen and his front office could wait out the first five picks of the draft hoping that one of Simon Nemec or David Jiricek is still on the board when they pick at #6. However, if they are truly in a “retool” rather than “rebuild,” its quite possible they don’t want to throw an 18-year-old who is coming to North America for the first time to the wolves or wait for them to continue developing overseas.
Is this the year that Jarmo uses one of his multiple first round picks and forward depth to add some instant impact via trade?
There are some intriguing options — including one name the Jackets have been previously linked to — out there this summer for the Blue Jackets to really beef up their blue line if they would like to contend in the metro sooner rather than later.
Here are some names and potential trade packages I’ve pondered to get a deal done.
Chychrun is the undisputed prize defenseman that is rumored to be available this summer. It was widely speculated that his tenure with the Arizona Coyotes would end at the trade deadline, but Arizona had a very high asking price (and rightly so) and there wasn’t a suitor during the season.
Surprisingly, Columbus was one of the names linked to the highly skilled defenseman. They were the only team on the outside looking in among all the playoff contending teams that were rumored to be kicking the tires. It’s clear why Kekalainen would be poking around, considering he checks off multiple boxes as to what the Jackets are looking for.
First, the physical attributes are there. He definitely makes the defense bigger at 6’2” and 205lbs. He’s not known for being overly physical, but he’s also not afraid to throw a hit or scrap after a whistle if the occasion calls for it. He uses his size well on the defensive end and is efficient in getting the puck out of his own end quickly and turning it up ice to create offense.
And that is where his game really shines. In the shortened 2020-21 season, Chychrun led the NHL with 18 goals in 56 games. He’s a great puck moving defenseman, who can also unleash a laser of a shot. He had a down year last year, but its hard to blame him, playing for a team who never really even attempted to contend in a year awash with trade rumors. I think wherever he ends up, he’s going to hit new highs in his career and really blossom.
Finally, his age and contract perfectly align with what the Blue Jackets are doing. Chychrun is just entering his prime at 24 years of age. The best part, in my opinion, is that there is no contract work involved for at least a few years. He is signed at a very modest $4.6M AAV for the next three seasons.
He won’t come cheap, but if the Jackets are serious about returning to contention quickly, they have the assets to pull it off. Rumor had it the Coyotes were looking for a 1st round pick, a young NHL player and a higher end prospect. You can mix and match players and prospects however you’d like, but if I was Jarmo I’d start off with something like...
12th OA + Adam Boqvist/Jake Bean + Yegor Chinakhov/Kirill Marchenko
Hronek is a very solid defenseman, who may just be the victim of a numbers game with the Detroit Red Wings. A few years back he was playing top pairing minutes for the Wings at only 23 years old. With the emergence of Moritz Seider as the team’s undisputed #1 defenseman, and with promising prospect Simon Edvinsson waiting in the wings (pun intended), Hronek is in for a reduced role with the team. Rumblings are that he is not thrilled with this fact, so he could potentially be in play this summer.
He’s a right hand shot defenseman with decent size (6ft 190lbs) and can run a power play unit. He has room to improve on the defensive side of the puck, but most players his age have the same criticism.
Hronek has two years left on his current deal, which carries a $4.4M AAV cap hit. He will also be an RFA at the end of his current deal, so he will still be under team control when he is looking for his next contract. He’s a very interesting player who could most likely be had for a significantly lower price than Chychrun. However, I think the Jackets would be more in search of a shutdown type of defenseman, so he might not completely fit the bill.
If I was to toss out an offer for Hronek, I’d kick the tires with...
Jake Bean + Liam Foudy
I may just be putting him in here for his size. Acquiring Myers from the Vancouver Canucks and sticking him in the defensive corps would probably raise the average height of the unit by a whopping three inches. Myers is a behemoth of a man at 6’8” and is a former Calder Winner. He’s on the wrong side of 30 at 32, and it guts me to say that considering he’s less than a month older than myself. He’d bring a wealth of experience to a young defensive unit that could use as much as possible. He’s the physical presence and crease clearer this team needs. He’s also more than willing to drop the gloves.
He was second on his team with a +/- of +15 and appeared in all 82 games. His game isn’t nearly as offensively oriented as it had been in years past and he has embraced more of a steady stay at home presence and had performed pretty well in that type of role. Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily what he signed a big contract to do.
That leads me to the biggest downside of targeting Tyler Meyers: his contract. Hear me out. He has two years left on his current deal, with a cringe-inducing $6M AAV. With that being said, his base salary is $5M this coming season and just $1M in the final year of his deal with a $5M bonus. His contract, if necessary, is would be easily tradeable for an asset at next years’ deadline. While his contract is high, it isn’t as crippling as it initially looks, but based on the actual money owed, Myers could probably be had for fairly cheap.
My offer: Gabriel Carlsson + 2023 3rd round pick
So this option is actually very appealing to me for a few reasons. First, Subban is an unrestricted free agent this summer and would not cost anything in terms of assets to acquire. Second, I can’t imagine too many teams lining up to hand him a long-term deal worth big money. If I had to guess, he will receive a short, one or two year deal with “prove it” money. The New Jersey Devils have already indicated they will not be bringing him back next year, so he will definitely be playing elsewhere.
Finally, I just like P.K.. I like the player and even more, I like the person. Subban has a ton of personality (is already broadcasting on television), and he seems like a great person in a locker room. Yes, he’s getting up there in years at 33, but an athlete like him should be able to effectively play into his late 30’s. He hasn’t scored as much in recent years, but his corsi still is right around the 50% mark and he definitely brings size and the physical element to a defensive unit.
Jarmo has had success in the past with these types of signings, and I think Subban could be another one if he chose to come to Columbus.
Who would you like to see Columbus bring in on the defensive end?