You blinked, and now it's time for the trade deadline.
Somehow, it's been a quick season, yes? The Columbus Blue Jackets are down to their final 20 games on the campaign, and against many preseason predictions, are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.
This, despite horrific free agency losses and a comical amount of injuries.
The NHL trade deadline timer is ticking down (3 pm on Monday) and the Blue Jackets have some tough questions ahead of them. Do they punt on the season with all the injuries? Go "all-in" again?
Our staff discusses and debates these head-scratchers - and invite you to do the same:
Without getting into specifics - should the Blue Jackets buy, sell or stay put at the deadline?
Dan Dukart: The Blue Jackets should stay put. First, due to a glut of injuries (you may have heard), the roster as currently constructed more closely resembles an AHL team than a playoff team, and John Tortorella and co. deserve a crazy amount of credit for keeping this team afloat. Secondly, the organization needs to restock the proverbial prospect cupboard, particularly as they’re without a second and third-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft (as well as no second-rounder next year). Lastly, any players returning from injury reserve are, in essence, trade deadline acquisitions (that the team didn’t have to lose assets in order to obtain). To me, that’s the prudent play.
Peter Fish: It is time to sell, but only for the right price. With the amount of injuries the Jackets have suffered this season, the lack of a second and third-round pick in the next draft and the playoff window still being open for the foreseeable future, the Jackets should use their surplus to find a prospect ready for more minute or a player who can make an impact with the club the next few seasons.
Rob Mixer: Their best option is to hang tight unless something irresistible comes their way. While I’m not ready to count them out of the playoffs, their most significant acquisitions will be the players returning from injury – if/when that actually happens. Do they need more draft picks? Ideally, yes. But to get the top picks they need would require trading a significant player away, and most of their top players are young players.
Jacob Nitzberg: The Blue Jackets shouldn’t be aggressive, either way. When all their injured players get healthy, it’ll form a formidable roster. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case until the offseason. Although they are technically still in the playoff hunt, it’s unlikely that they’ll make it. They should look to build for the future by staying put at the deadline unless they get an offer they can’t turn down.
Nic Hendrickson: If Jarmo can set up the right deal to get depth at the center position, then they should definitely do so. No need to leverage the future for a deal though.
Chris Pennington: I hate to say it, but stay put, probably. Seeing trades go through is almost always the more fun route, and I wouldn't be mad if they did something, but it'd be wise to fold up the shop right now. Make the playoffs if you can, get your injured guys back this summer, and make a trade then to bulk up for next season. They'll get a horrible return for an injured player (or non-injured) now, as opposed to the offseason.
Name the Blue Jacket(s) who is/are absolutely 100% untradeable in your mind:
DD: Seth Jones is the beginning and end to my list of players who are “100% untradeable”. The Blue Jackets don’t have a generational type player, so in my mind, virtually everybody has a price.
PF: Jones, Werenski, Dubois and Atkinson. On a different note, Wennberg as well because no one will take on that contract.
RM: Seth Jones is the list.
JN: Seth Jones. That’s it. That’s the entire group.
NH: Jones, Werenski, Dubois
CP: Jones and Merzlikins. That's the tweet.
Who is one opposing player you wish the Blue Jackets would deal for right now?
DD: Well, it goes against my advice to not be a buyer, but if I must give an opposing player, give me Vincent Trocheck. He’s a 26-year old top-six center, is on a great contract, and plays a Tortorella style of hockey. What’s not to like?
PF: No specific player comes to mind because what the team needs are assets to use when the team is healthy. Right now, this team is not a contender due to injuries and when the players come back, they still won’t be 100% and ready for the grind that comes with a playoff run. Unfortunately, this may be a dead year for the Jackets and preparing for next season and beyond would be the smart choice.
RM: If we’re assuming they’re healthy and adding a piece for a playoff run, I am warm to the idea of adding a guy like Kyle Turris. He’s not a rental (signed beyond this season) and while the cap number ($6M) is high, it’s not something the Blue Jackets can’t make work financially–especially if they’re able to move salary in the deal. The price wouldn’t be too high as Nashville is looking to shed money and Turris doesn’t seem to fit there anymore, potentially opening the door for the Blue Jackets to get a solid buy-low option on a guy who has produced before.
JN: I don’t think they should deal for anyone right now, but if they did, a dynamic winger would address one of the many needs of this injury-depleted roster. Vincent Trocheck or Kyle Turris would be great options.
NH: Vincent Trocheck. He addresses a lot of the issues the Blue Jackets currently have, is only 26 and has a very good contract.
CP: I don't know if there is a bigger Chris Kreider stan outside of New York than me. The dude would be such a solid, young addition to the Blue Jackets. He's a great all-around player, and honestly just a better Alexander Wennberg.
Who is one Blue Jackets player you’d have no problem with the club getting rid of?
DD: My gut is saying Joonas Korpisalo, but I’ll let the rest of the group argue about him. It may be unpopular in the locker room, but I wouldn’t have much issue with moving a guy like David Savard. I think the organization missed the window in which they would have received maximum value for him (read: last summer), but he’s still an effective, right-shot defenseman, and teams absolutely value his brand of hockey, particularly this time of year. Andrew Peeke (because he’s a younger and a right-shot) and Vladislav Gavrikov (because he’s Savard with more offense, cheaper, and younger) allow the team to trade a guy like Savard without significant repercussions. And as the old adage says, you have to give to get.
PF: Korpisalo, he has shown a lot this season and selling high on him could be good for the Jackets especially since Elvis has stepped up and Kivlenieks has been a strong backup.
RM: Either of their goaltenders. I think we’re nearing a critical point in terms of them making a decision for the long-term; it’s fair to say they know what they have in Korpisalo and they’re getting close to know what they have in Elvis Merzlikins. It’s tough to envision a scenario in which both of those players are comfortable sharing the net next season–one is winning “star of the week” awards left and right while keeping the Blue Jackets in the race, and the other was just named to the All-Star team in his first year as a full-time No. 1 guy. There’s value in both, now it’s a matter of making a decision.
JN: Sonny Milano. It’s clear that John Tortorella doesn’t like his playstyle, but he’s got enough talent to play in an NHL role elsewhere. Milano needs a change of scenery, and there are several teams who would be interested.
NH: Josh Anderson. At the current time, the Jackets likely wouldn’t get much in return, but as part of a deal for a player like Trocheck I would be 100% okay with including him.
CP: David Savard. This pains me because he's such a staple on the blue line and longstanding club member, but analytically, he's really starting to dip. He's also (sort of) aging. He would get a great return - every team wants a stay-at-home veteran like Savard, and the Blue Jackets have plenty of depth on their defensive unit to replace him in the future.
Give your dream trade scenario (also, something an opposing GM would probably say yes to)
DD: Insert copout answer here. For better or worse, I don’t have a trade scenario for this deadline. As I’ve said for awhile now, the Blue Jackets should hold firm at the trade deadline. So any dream trade scenario for me would happen this summer at the NHL Draft. I would love to see this team explore moving Joonas Korpisalo and/or David Savard, two players that are luxury pieces on a team that has major holes elsewhere. There will always be teams that need quality defensemen and serviceable goaltenders, and I trust that Jarmo Kekalainen will be able to find a compatible team this summer.
PF: For what the Jackets need - prospects and future assets - there is not a dream scenario right now. I am not here to advocate tanking or rebuilding, but these future assets could be used in the off-season or next deadline when the team is healthy and in a position to win.
RM: While it’s tough to pin down a specific scenario, I can see the Blue Jackets as being an active team in terms of both hockey deals and cap-casualty deals either now or in the summer. They’re well-positioned to take \on money and/or acquire players with money and term on their contracts, and that’s typically been Jarmo Kekalainen’s preference (getting players who can help now and in the future). The dream scenario is to see them add skill up front and deal from their deep blue line, which as Dan said, is more likely to happen in the summer than it is right now.
JN: Acquiring a winger or draft picks (or both) would be the Blue Jackets’ best move, but I don’t think it should happen at the deadline. They’re in excess of defensemen and goaltenders, and in need of scoring. Seems like a good formula for me to make a deal in the offseason.
NH: I sound like a broken record, but I want Trocheck. A fan recently proposed Milano, Nutivaara and Clendening for Trocheck and I think that would be fine. Could even swap Clendening out for Anderson to sweeten the pot for Florida.
CP: This likely wouldn't be wise because he'd be a rental, but getting Chris Kreider for something like David Savard, Dean Kukan, Sonny Milano and a later-round pick would be great. I don't know if New York says yes, and I don't know if Kreider would stay past next season, but it'd make me happy for 15 months, at least.
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