A Ranking of Jarmo Kekalainen’s Trade History

Six years of deals, from bad to good

The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is just over a month away, on February 25. Once again, the Blue Jackets look to be active participants. Will they make small tweaks to the lineup for a playoff push? Or will they make a blockbuster deal involving Sergei Bobrovsky or Artemi Panarin?

Because it’s the bye week and I’m bored, I thought I would rank the trades that Columbus has made since Jarmo Kekalainen took over as GM in February 2013.

I scored each transaction based on the value of what was given up, what was received, how the trade was viewed at the time, and how it looks now with the benefit of hindsight.

Note: I limited this list to trades that involved an NHL player. Trades involving just AHL players or draft pick swaps are not included.

#21, March 5, 2014: Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles for Matt Frattin, 2015 2nd Round Pick (Travis Dermott), and 2014 3rd Round Pick (Dominic Turgeon)

One could defend the decision to move Gaborik: he only played 22 games that season with Columbus to that point, and never seemed to click with any linemates. But given his pedigree he should have drawn a much higher return. What made this look worse is that he scored 14 goals in the playoffs to lead the Kings to the Cup. Nothing that came back to Columbus provided any value to the franchise.

#20, June 21, 2017: David Clarkson, 2017 1st Round Pick, 2019 2nd Round Pick to Vegas for Expansion Draft Considerations

There are several positives here: the albatross Clarkson contract came off the books. Valuable young players like Josh Anderson and Joonas Korpisalo got protected. But the bad news is giving up valuable draft picks while also losing a talented young player in the expansion draft (more on him later).

#19, February 26, 2015: Nathan Horton to Toronto for David Clarkson

Speaking of albatross contracts, it was a minor miracle that Horton was able to be traded. Toronto had the cash on hand to absorb his salary even as his back injury kept him on LTIR for the duration of his contract. In return, the Blue Jackets got an overpaid player but one who could at least play. This deal looks worse in hindsight due to Clarkson’s own eventual career-ending injury.

#18, March 1, 2017: Dillon Heatherington to Dallas for Lauri Korpikoski

There’s nothing wrong with trading a minor league defenseman for a veteran fourth liner to bolster forward depth. But the Other Korpi only dressed for 9 games and recorded no points. Heatherington has reached the show for Dallas but has not stuck in the lineup.

#17, December 14, 2014: Tim Erixon to Chicago for Jeremy Morin

This was a swap of two formerly highly regarded prospects that had not yet panned out. Neither found a place on his new team, either. Morin did play a part in a later, better trade.

#16, March 5, 2014: 2014 5th Round Pick to Edmonton for Nick Schultz

Low draft pick for a depth defenseman. Whatevs. Schultz averaged 11:54 in 9 games for Columbus after the trade, and 9:44 in two playoff games that season.

#15, March 2, 2015: Jordan Leopold to Minnesota for Justin Falk and 2015 5th Round Pick (Veeti Vainio)

This traded didn’t do much on the ice, but it was a nice story. Leopold wasn’t playing in Columbus, so his young daughter - who lived in Minnesota - wrote a letter to the Minnesota GM asking for a trade. Both teams were happy to oblige to help out a solid pro and his family.

#14, November 14, 2014: 2016 5th Round Pick to St. Louis for Jordan Leopold

The Blue Jackets were overwhelmed with injuries that season and needed bodies. Leopold served that role for 18 games before getting scratched and eventually traded.

#13, April 3, 2013: Steve Mason to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and 2015 3rd Round Pick (Martins Dzierkals)

The Jackets didn’t get anything in return, as Leighton rode the bench for the remainder of the season as the team rode Bob to the brink of the playoffs, and he earned his first Vezina Trophy. The trade was valuable, however, in anointing Bob as the franchise goalie and officially closing the book on the Mason era.

#12, March 1, 2017: Dalton Prout to New Jersey for Kyle Quincey

Dalton Prout is a good guy but sadly not a great defenseman. As the Blue Jackets rode a hot streak into playoff contention, Prout found himself out of the regular lineup. Quincey was a veteran presence that solidified the defense due to injuries to Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara. He probably should have played more against Pittsburgh in the playoffs than he did, but that’s on the coaches not the GM.

#11, June 25, 2016: Kerby Rychel to Toronto for Scott Harrington

At the time, this seemed like a bad deal because it was an acknowledgement that one of Jarmo’s first draft picks was a bust. After a forgettable first two years in Columbus, Harrington has gotten regular playing time this season and while he’s not good he’s...well he’s fine for what he is. Rychel, meanwhile, is on his fourth NHL organization and has played just 43 NHL games in 4.5 professional seasons.

#10, April 3, 2013: Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore, and 2014 6th Round Pick for Marian Gaborik, Blake Parlett, and Steven Delisle

Right from the beginning, Jarmo showed that he was not afraid of making a big swing. With the team surprising everyone and in the thick of the playoff chase in a shortened season, the decision was made to go for it. Brassard and Moore were both former first round draft picks but Gaborik was an elite playmaker, having scored 30+ goals seven times in his career. Better yet, he was signed for another beyond that. Sadly, injuries and lack of chemistry meant he never lived up to expectation. He scored 9 goals and 13 assists in 34 games as a Jacket.

#9, March 2, 2015: James Wisniewski and 2015 3rd Round Pick to Anaheim for Rene Bourque, William Karlsson, and 2015 2nd Round Pick (Kevin Stenlund)

The relationship between the organization and Wiz had soured by this point, with Wiz not wanting to leave but the team looking to go in a different direction with the defense. Finally he accepted a trade back to Anaheim. At the time, this return seemed underwhelming: an overpriced veteran who had been buried in the AHL, a middling prospect, and a draft pick. Bourque scored four goals in eight games for Columbus that season, then played 49 games the next season as a fourth liner. “Wild Bill” turned out to be a valuable bottom six center with special teams ability, even if he never showed the offensive firepower he would discover in Vegas. Stenlund just made his NHL debut and looks like he could be a regular player in the near future.

Wisniewski, meanwhile, played 13 games for Anaheim but was scratched in all of their playoff games. The next season, he got injured in the first game while playing for Carolina and has not made it back to the NHL after his recovery.

#8, February 26, 2018: 2018 4th Round Pick to Nashville for Mark Letestu
#7, April 3, 2013: 2013 5th Round Pick to Calgary for Blake Comeau
#6, February 26, 2018: Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen to Vancouver for Thomas Vanek
#5, February 26, 2018: Nick Moutrey and 2020 3rd Round Pick to Ottawa for Ian Cole

These trades are all similar: low cost pickups of veterans for the short term (with Comeau on board for an additional season after). I’ve ranked them in order of their contribution, with Cole and Vanek being more impactful than Comeau and Letestu.

#4, January 6, 2016: Ryan Johansen to Nashville for Seth Jones

At this point in the list, we can start to argue which of these is the best Jarmo trade. Columbus lost an All-Star 1C, but gained an All-Star 1D who may well win the Norris Trophy some day. I docked points on this one because the cost was so high, and because there was still a bit of risk at the time. Jones always had this ceiling, but it was not yet clear that he could carry a defensive corps, or if he benefited from the talent around him in Nashville.

#3, June 23, 2014: RJ Umberger and 2015 4th Round Pick to Philadelphia for Scott Hartnell

This may be the most lopsided (in our favor) Jarmo trade. They had similar cap hits but Hartnell had a longer term - which Philadelphia was eager to get out from under sooner. But the gap in production was far greater than anyone anticipated: Umby scored just 9 goals in 106 games for the Flyers, while Hartnell scored 64 goals over three seasons in Columbus, playing in at least 77 games each time.

#2, June 23, 2017: Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, 2018 5th Round Pick to Chicago for Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte, and 2017 6th Round Pick (Jonathan Davidsson)

Saad was a good player here, but acquiring Panarin added an offensive playmaker unlike anything we’ve seen here before. But I put this in the second position because of the risk of Panarin leaving in free agency. Chicago wanted the certainty of Saad being signed for two additional years. Was this move worth the risk?

Davidsson almost made the Jackets out of training camp this year, so look for him to make an impact next season.

#1, June 30, 2015: Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, 2016 4th Round Pick to Chicago for Brandon Saad, Alex Broadhurst, and Michael Paliotta

Jarmo took advantage of the cap crunch facing the defending champion Blackhawks and managed to get their skilled RFA winger. Saad scored 31 goals and was an All-Star in his first season here. The second season saw a drop in goals, but an equal number of points as he was still part of a productive first line. Broadhurst has remained a staple of the Cleveland Monsters lineup.

Alright, let the debating begin! Which trades do you think are the best and the worst?

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