This Didn't Work: The Columbus Blue Jackets Trading for Sniper Marian Gaborik

By Dan Dukart on August 2, 2017 at 7:33 am
Gaborik on the bad guys

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

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Less than an hour before the 2013 trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets swung a blockbuster trade to acquire Marian Gaborik, a three-time 40-goal scorer.

With the team sitting just one point out of eighth place in the Western Conference and firmly in the playoff hunt, new Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen wanted to add scoring punch and bring in a legitimate offensive threat. 

"We're excited as hell," said Kekalainen shortly after the deadline passed.

In addition to Gaborik, Columbus also acquired defensemen Blake Parlett and Steven Delisle (neither played a game in the NHL) in exchange for center Derick Brassard, right wing Derek Dorsett, defenseman John Moore, and a sixth-round draft pick in 2014.

At the time, it was seen as a home run for the Blue Jackets. While Moore and Brassard were both former first-round picks, neither had been seen as must-keep assets for the future. On a team with plenty of tough customers (Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie, Dalton Prout, etc.), losing Dorsett was tolerable. Acquiring the 30-year-old Gaborik meant acquiring the kind of player that could finally turn the tide for Columbus.

Coincidentally, Gaborik's coach on the New York Rangers was John Tortorella, who clashed at times with his star winger. The Slovakian had a down year, posting just nine goals and 19 points in 35 games with the Rangers before the trade to Columbus. He also had been benched and demoted multiple times by Tortorella during his struggles.

On the other hand, this was a guy who put up a 41-goal, 76-point campaign in the year prior. He was paid $7.5M per season and was seen as worth the investment. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch called him "a Ferrari".

Gaborik just didn't work out in Columbus. Over his two seasons with the club, he often battled injuries and scored just nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points. 

After missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker in 2012-13, the team finally made its second postseason appearance in 2013-14, though Gaborik wouldn't be there to see it. An expiring free agent, it became clear that days in Columbus were numbered. He was traded to Los Angeles less than a year after he was acquired. 

The deal with the Kings produced an average return. The Blue Jackets acquired Matt Frattin and two draft picks: a third-round pick in 2014 and a secnd-round pick in 2015. Though Frattin only played four games in Columbus, the two draft picks were traded in other moves that landed now-prized goaltending prospect Elvis Merzlikins and top defensive prospect Gabriel Carlsson. 

As for the original trade, Derick Brassard, most notably, has gone on to have an impressive career. This past postseason, especially, Brassard was solid for the Ottawa Senators and helped them get to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He matched up decently against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and posted 11 points in 19 playoff games.

In 198 games and counting with the Kings, Gaborik has scored 54 goals and added 52 assists, but has struggled in the past two seasons (43 points in 110 games).

From Aaron Portzline on the Columbus Dispatch, after he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings: "Gaborik showed only flashes of elite talent during his time with the Blue Jackets. Mostly, he looked out of place in coach Todd Richards' system."

If there is a silver lining, it's that the Kings, beneficiaries of Gaborik's woes in Columbus, are currently in salary cap hell. Gaborik, now 35, is signed for four more years at $4.875M per year.

Gaborik is a fantastic talent who helped Los Angeles win a Cup in 2014, scoring 14 goals in 26 games. He's put up 794 regular season points in 989 games. 

Conversely, the Blue Jackets are, it appears, on the right track. It's funny how a trade from nearly five years ago is only winding up for one team (Columbus) and down for the other (Kings). Though Gaborik never seemed to fit in Columbus, perhaps it's for the best. 

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