Kevin Stenlund: Expansion Draft Fodder?

By Sam Blazer on June 18, 2021 at 10:17 am
New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29) makes a save on Columbus Blue Jackets center Kevin Stenlund (11) during overtime at Prudential Center.
Ed Mullholland - USA Today Sports

The roster has not fully taken shape yet as the offseason has only just started. The Blue Jackets though wasted no time in making sure that they had Swedish forward Kevin Stenlund on board. 

Stenlund was extended for a one-year after finding himself as a regular in the Blue Jackets lineup for most of the last campaign.

So now exactly, how should they utilize him?

The first thought surrounding Stenlund is exposing him for the upcoming expansion draft. The Blue Jackets need to expose forwards to make sure that they meet all the league-mandated thresholds and re-signing Stenlund gives them enough forwards now.

Is that a smart move for the Blue Jackets to leave Stenlund to be selected? For a team without a lot of options down the middle, it doesn't feel like Stenlund should be the player exposed.

Stenlund only had ten points last year in 32 games in total. That was the same amount of games played as he did in 2019-20. His scoring output is that of a bottom-six forward. Adding to that he has also been playing the same amount as a bottom-six forward hovering around 12-13 minutes.

The area that tell me that there is more to Stenlund than meets the eye is the fact that he is constantly a positive possession presence when on the ice. Especially relative to the team over the past couple of years that went from possession monster to more of a counter-attacking style. 

For someone that is that big, is that cheap, and is homegrown, Stenlund feels like the person that you want to hold onto. Comparing him to someone like Eric Robinson that is a speed demon and someone that the Blue Jackets obviously value is tough. Robinson has a completely different skill set that Stenlund doesn't have. It would be like comparing apples to oranges.

The one caveat to this is the Blue Jackets have gone after bottom-six forwards in free agency rather than developing themselves. Stenlund fills that role but for whatever reason, the Blue Jackets are wanting to pay a premium there. 

Regardless of the decision that the Blue Jackets make in exposing players in the expansion draft, they will likely lose a player that has promise and hasn't fully reached their potential. If the Golden Knights have taught us anything, taking young and unproven players is the right decision as there is nothing better for those players than opportunity.

Whether it is Stenlund or someone else it remains to be seen.

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