Analyzing The Blue Jackets' Decision To Expose Max Domi In The Seattle Expansion Draft

By Dan Dukart on July 19, 2021 at 1:20 pm
Max Domi skates the puck at Nationwide Arena
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made a calculated bet that the Seattle Kraken will pass on Max Domi.

Domi, 26, is coming off shoulder surgery and expected to miss the first month or two of the regular season. That alone could tempt the Kraken to pass on him, to say nothing of his pending free agency after the coming season. His recent on-ice performance hasn't been glowing, either, and his 9-15-24 in 54 games last year is his worst statistical season by a significant margin.

All that said and understood, the Blue Jackets exposing Domi is less than ideal from an optics standpoint.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was stoic when describing the situation, telling media "... if we lose him, we lose him. That’s a risk we were willing to take and it gave us an opportunity to protect somebody else." But therein lies the issue with exposing Domi in the first place; it gave Columbus an opportunity to protect somebody else, like Gus Nyquist or Eric Robinson.  

Look, I recognize Domi's flaws. He was bad for most of last year–full stop. And even if he isn't claimed, there's a fair chance Columbus either moves on from him at the trade deadline or loses him next summer via free agency. But are we really talking about Robinson like he's some sort of game-breaker? Robinson had a career-high eight goals last year.

Put another way, Domi's career-worst season looked a lot like Robinson's career-best, at least from a counting stats perspective. I saw a lot of "well, Robinson hasn't reached his ceiling yet" and "well, Robinson is a younger player" on social media over the weekend.

Robinson and Domi were born two months apart. They're both 26 years old. And why does Robinson get a free pass for not yet reaching his potential whereas Domi is a known commodity? Because Robinson is fast? 

Ironically, I'm not even suggesting the Blue Jackets should have exposed Robinson. That distinction belongs to Nyquist, which hurts to even write. Nyquist is a dependable, middle-six winger that brings consistency, stability, and leadership to a team that is suddenly devoid of all of those things. Unfortunately for him, he'll also be 32 years old when the season starts, with two more seasons left on a contract that pays him $5.5M AAV.

From an asset management standpoint, he's the type of player that Seattle may be reluctant to take, anyways. 

Exposing him and his contract to Seattle in a high-stakes game of chicken made much more sense to me than the same game with Domi. Domi could be part of the solution when the Blue Jackets are again competing for the postseason. Nyquist ostensibly will not. 

In the end, perhaps it won't matter. Seattle's front office is full of smart people who are well aware that selecting an injured player who could miss 20-plus games, is a pending UFA, and is coming off a down year may not be the right move. It's possible that Seattle's new roster may have enough big-ticket contracts that they go a cheaper route. Maybe Seattle doesn't want to be team No. 4 for Domi.

For an expansion team where the 'sum of its parts' ethos dominates the messaging, perhaps Seattle would value something other than what Domi brings to their locker room. 

But it's likely that Seattle selects Domi, and Blue Jackets fans have 54 games in empty buildings to remember him forever. The unceremonious benchings. The healthy scratches. The move from center to the wing. Maybe Seattle sees all that and says, 'yep, we'll take him.'  

So in six months, when we're hearing all about the lack of talent in the Blue Jackets' forward group, let's try to remember that Domi was here until it was decided that he wouldn't be any longer. 

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