Getting to Know Your (Possible) Future Columbus Blue Jackets
It’s like Christmas without the benevolence
We’re a little more than a week from the trade deadline, which feels more like a case of who isn’t on the trading block. You may have heard the Columbus Blue Jackets have some players to trade. In that spirit, here’s a non-exhaustive-but-still-hearty list of some of the names that have been bandied about as possible candidates for a trade, and what they’ve been up to lately.
Season stats: 56 GP, 13 G, 39 A, 52 P
Contract: $5.9 million cap hit through 2022-2023
If you’re going to trade away Artemi Panarin, you could do a lot worse than getting Jonathan Huberdeau in return. Huberdeau ranks second on the team in points (one behind Aleksander Barkov), averaging nearly a point per game. He sees time on the Panthers power play and, like Panarin, loves to make plays happen—his 39 assists lead the team. His 52.9 CF% at even-strength also paces the club and he’s responsible defensively, too. Huberdeau would be a prized addition of the Blue Jackets could swing it, though it may be unlikely.
Season stats: 47 GP, 10 G, 8 A, 18 P
Contract: $3 million cap hit through 2018-19 (Modified NTC)
This name sounds familiar, eh? Brassard, who was drafted by the Blue Jackets in 2006 and played for the team from 2007 to 2013, was traded to Florida from Pittsburgh earlier this month. Brassard was moved to the left wing at the beginning of the season, a role he’s kept in Florida with some success—scoring a goal and two assists in six games while bouncing around the lineup with the Panthers. He’s posted solid possession numbers and even said getting traded from Pittsburgh was good for him, giving him more responsibility and ice time. Seems doubtful that Columbus fans will be clamoring for him to return, but he could definitely be shipped out of South Beach.
Season stats: 25 GP, 5 G, 3 A, 8 P
Contract: $925,000 cap hit through 2019-20 (ELC)
Here’s another one that’s unlikely to leave Florida, according to our Litter Box Cats friend Zim. Still, Borgström’s a young center with gobs of talent who has seen his ice time fall dramatically in recent weeks since joining the big club in mid-December. He’s a great stickhandler who tore it up in Springfield (22 points in 24 games) to start the year. He’s also Finnish, so he’d fit right in with the Blue Jackets.
Los Angeles Kings
Season stats: 11-14-5, 3.09 GAA, .899 SV%
Contract: $5.8 million cap hit through 2022-23
Jonathan Quick is a good goalie signed to a very bad contract, at least at this point in his career. The Kings’ longtime No. 1 netminder has struggled of late, allowing 11 goals in starts against the Capitals and Bruins in the last week. Seeing that save percentage creep under .900 is worrying, even with how bad the Kings have been. An absurd $5.8 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season boggles the mind as well. He may be a solid stopgap while the Jackets figure out life after Sergei Bobrovsky, but at what long-term cost?
Detroit Red Wings
Season stats: 17-15-5, 2.74 GAA, .915 SV%
Contract: $5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19
OK. Jimmy Howard is having an excellent year, his contract ends in a few months and the Jackets may have a need for a veteran to see them through the short term. Howard does indeed fit the bill, despite his place among the top of the league in dSV% (which compares save percentage to expected save percentage). That said, he hasn’t slid below a .910 save percentage since 2015-16. He’s obviously pretty good. Something about Jimmy Howard in a Blue Jackets sweater seems off, though, a sentiment put forth by Stinerman in the comments to this very good Dan P. piece from earlier in the week. For more on Howard (and varied CBJ fan reaction), read that post.
Season stats: 18-8-4, 2.38 GAA, .920 SV%
Contract: $7 million cap hit through 2020-21 (Modified NTC)
Out of all the goalies connected to the Blue Jackets in trade rumors this season, Rask might be the attractive. He’s a 31-year-old former Vezina winner and All-Star who ranks in the top 10 in goals against average and save percentage. He turned around an up-and-down first half of the season, posting a .934 save percentage with two shutouts while going 9-0-2 so far in 2019. His modified no-trade clause requires him to list eight teams he can be traded to and his contract runs through 2020-21.
Season stats: 7 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P (Boston), 37 GP, 10 G, 7 A, 17 P (AHL Providence)
Contract: $925,000 cap hit through 2020-21 (ELC)
Similar to Tolvanen, Trent Frederic is a prospect whose name has been bandied about in trade rumors as a potential piece in a Panarin deal. The Bruins’ first-round pick in 2016, Frederic has played most of the season in Providence. He made his NHL debut on January 29 and has yet to score his first point in seven games, averaging a little under nine minutes a night in a bottom-six role. He factors in the B’s long-term replacement plans for Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci, but hasn’t shown that he’s ready yet. Frederic wins puck battles and goes to the net, though he’s not projected as a skilled offensive player.
Season stats: 48 GP, 15 G, 5 A, 22 P
Contract: $863,333 cap hit through 2019-20 (ELC)
Jake DeBrusk ranks fourth on the team in goals, fourth in CF%, sixth in points, and is 22 years old. He’s a key part of the power play and has another year left on his entry-level contract. All of this, as The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa says, makes “DeBrusk close to untouchable.” He’s got a dynamic penalty differential and snapped a 13-game scoreless streak with a goal on Tuesday night against Chicago. DeBrusk scored 43 points as a rookie; he’s very good. That said, head coach Bruce Cassidy did call him out last month during a slump. Trade him to Columbus, where that would never ever happen.
Season stats: 34 GP, 6 G, 3 A, 9 P (Boston), 15 GP, 7 G, 5 A, 12 P (AHL Providence)
Contract: $900,000 cap hit through 2018-19 (ELC)
Donato’s had an up-and-down season in his first full year as a pro. He’s currently in Providence for the second time after being sent down on January 28, where he’s nearly producing a point per game. Donato hasn’t been consistent with the big club, obviously, and Cassidy mentioned Donato’s lack of strength on the puck before he was demoted to Providence. Still, he’s a former second round pick with a decent CF% (53.9), and he’s only in the final year of his entry-level contract.
Season stats: 48 GP, 26 G, 28 A, 54 P
Contract: $6 million cap hit through 2018-19
Blue Jackets fans may have to stretch their memories all the way back to November 2017 to remember a time when Matt Duchene could’ve joined the Blue Jackets. As it happens, he’s in the midst of another strong season with a truly stinky Ottawa team, putting up a little over a point per game. Top-line centers don’t grow on trees, especially ones with as good as track record as Duchene boasts over his 10 (!) years in the league. This hasn’t been his most productive season, but he does play for the Senators. Maybe this is the season he finally becomes a Blue Jacket.
Season stats: 57 GP, 26 G, 31 A, 57 P
Contract: $7.35 million cap hit through 2018-19
Here’s a pair of interesting tweets from hockey analytics guru Micah Blake McCurdy:
Mark Stone, on the other hand, is an extraordinary player, one of the very best in the league. He ought to win both the Selke and the Hart this year. pic.twitter.com/36vCHU32jZ— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 2, 2019
The Blue Jackets would probably take either Duchene or Stone if Artemi Panarin skips town, but Stone certainly has a lot to offer. After five games without a goal, he tallied four in three games until going pointless last night. He’s a regular 20-goal scorer who shoots out of his mind and controls possession. Stone’s another player with an expiring contract, but maybe Nick Foligno could speak to him about sticking around in Columbus after Ottawa. Imagine a top line with Cam Atkinson and Mark Stone, just a couple of sixth-rounders making it in the NHL.
Season stats: 4 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P (Nashville), 35 GP, 8 G, 10 A, 18 P (AHL Milwaukee)
Contract: $894,166 cap hit through 2020-21 (ELC)
Tolvanen played only four games with the Predators this season, earning a call-up in December before heading back to Milwaukee, where he’s generally thrived. He turned a great 2017-18 for Jokerit but hasn’t immediately adjusted to North America. Tolvanen helped Team Finland win gold at January’s World Junior Championships, picking up four assists in seven games, though that performance didn’t thrill Preds fans who expected more out of the young winger on a big stage. He shows skill befitting his first-round draft status from 2017, but he wouldn’t help the Blue Jackets for awhile—we are talking about a 19-year-old, after all.
Season stats: 57 GP, 7 G, 9 A, 16 P
Contract: $894,166 cap hit through 2019-20 (ELC)
The young Winnipeg center from—hang on, looking this up—oh wow, Columbus? Really?—could find himself dealt in his first full season as a Jet. The 2015 first-rounder saw his usage tick up in early January when Nikolaj Ehlers went down, and he’s tried to make the most of it. He picked up a hat trick against Anaheim two days after scoring a goal in a win against Columbus on January 31, but the bulk of his season has been unremarkable. A forward by himself in his stage of development may not move the needle for the Blue Jackets this deadline, as neat of a homecoming story as it would be.
New York Rangers
Season stats: 47 GP, 13 G, 25 A, 38 P
Contract: $5,175,000 million cap hit through 2018-19
Hayes, a top-line winger for the Rangers, is only 11 points shy of his career-high of 49. He’s also almost definitely leaving New York at the deadline, having no discussions with the Rangers on a contract extension. Hayes has played far beyond his usual station with respect to possession and shot metrics this season (51.5 CF% and 50.6 FF%), and has cooled off a bit after scoring 14 points in eight games during December. He drives offense in front of the net on both the power play and at 5-on-5, but it’d be hard to imagine a straight up swap for Panarin as Larry Brooks discussed two weeks ago.
New York Rangers
Season stats: 42 GP, 9 G, 25 A, 32 P
Contract: $4.5 million cap hit through 2018-19
Sort of the same situation as Kevin Hayes, just older and cheaper and a little bit worse. He’s been hot lately, putting up four assists in his last two games. He’s fourth on the team in points despite only scoring nine goals and playing in 42 games so far this year. Zuccarello has been part of the core for the Rangers along with Hayes, and he’s a hard-working fan favorite. Would he help the Jackets? Probably, but the CBJ already have a sub-5’10” winger.
Season stats: 54 GP, 9 G, 17 A, 26 P
Contract: $4.55 million cap hit through 2020-21 (in last year with modified NTC)
Speaking of familiar names, Artem Anisimov’s has surfaced repeatedly in the last several days as a candidate to head out of Chicago. You may remember that Anisimov came to Columbus in the 2012 Rick Nash trade before getting traded to Chicago in the 2015 Brandon Saad deal. He’s seen his usage and role dip this year, moving away from Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome while the team searches for chemistry with him, Kane and anybody else (including, fittingly, Saad as of late). He hadn’t scored since January 9 until he potted a goal last night, but maybe a change of scenery would get him going? Even if it’s scenery he’s seen quite a bit before.
When it comes to this time of year, there aren’t too many untouchables. Who on this list (or off of it) would you like to see suited up in union blue?