The Columbus Blue Jackets were in on the Marcus Johansson sweepstakes but were unable to nab him. The Swedish center inked a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres.
It leaves the Blue Jackets in a precarious spot as they don't have a middle six center to push the top of the lineup. Johansson was never going to be a world beater, but it raises questions for a Columbus team that needs to fill the middle of their lineup.
Three options come to mind when thinking about the Blue Jackets strategy for the rest of this offseason.
This is the most likely of the bunch. The Blue Jackets have too many good defensemen and are likely to package one for a player that can immediately help the team.
The problem then becomes who gets traded for who and how much is it going to end up costing the Blue Jackets in the long term?
The hope is that the trade is right in the short term and long term, that you're able to have cost control with it as well.
Finding that player is easier said than done.
Stay The Course
The Blue Jackets have three centers that they could genuinely go into next season with if they needed to do so. Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg, and Pierre-Luc Dubois is not a bad mix of players.
Finding the combination is going to be the issue. Wennberg undoubtedly had a bad year, but he is skilled, and he is talented. There is a salvageable player their despite the derision from so many others.
Jenner is a center, yet it still feels odd that he plays in that position. He doesn't win many faceoffs, his distribution is lacking, and it feels like he is a ready-made bottom-six center. Nonetheless, he gets the job done, and Columbus needs that in the worst way.
Dubois is going to be the number one center. Whether he is ready for it or not, Dubois is going to lead the way and be the central pivot for the team. Not having a player pushing him could be an issue considering that his development is still ongoing.
This is where it gets dicey; the offer sheet game is always going to be out there with a player like Brayden Point readily available.
It doesn't seem likely that the Blue Jackets are going to go down that path.
Looking at the unrestricted free agents, the Blue Jackets can go after two players that may push in the middle six, Derrick Brassard and Joe Thornton. Frankly, neither are ideal as Thornton won't leave unless it is for a big chunk of change and Brassard's best days look to be behind him.
Either way, the Blue Jackets need to solidify the middle. The options left aren't great, and if they want to remain a contender in a division that is only going to get tougher, moves will need to be made.
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