Hello Old Friend: What Can The Blue Jackets Expect From Jakub Voracek?

By Dan Dukart on July 29, 2021 at 8:05 am
Jakub Voracek skates with the puck
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Eyebrows were raised on Sunday when the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Jakub Voracek from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Cam Atkinson.

Voracek, who will be 32 when the season starts, is returning to the Blue Jackets, where he began his career and played three full seasons after being drafted seventh overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.

Atkinson, 32, was a great solider for the organization, a true heart-and-soul player, who maximized his potential (and then some), going from a sixth-round pick to a perennial twenty-goal scorer (and a one-time 40 goal scorer) in the NHL. His 627 games with the franchise spanned 10 years, and he became a proud member of the Columbus community

All that said, the trade for Voracek made sense for both parties. In Atkinson, the Flyers are getting a talented goal-scorer, a proven leader, and a new voice in the locker room. What the Blue Jackets may be losing in goal scoring, they're making up for in playmaking skills, particularly at the man-advantage, a place where (at the risk of sounding too casual) the Blue Jackets have been bad at for years. That, alone, makes the deal intriguing from the Blue Jackets standpoint.

From the Blue Jackets' official website

In addition, Columbus sees him as a good fit given his distributing abilities, as Voracek remains one of the game's best passers, with 333 assists in the last seven seasons to place sixth in the NHL in that span. That's especially true on the power play, as Voracek has 127 assists on the power play over the past seven seasons, ninth in the NHL, and it's easy to see how he might fit with someone like Patrik Laine both at 5-on-5 and on the man advantage. 

I was curious about Voracek's power-play prowess, particularly when it comes to passing (again, I think the Blue Jackets actually have power-play scoring weapons in Laine and Bjorsktrand). Turns out, over the past five seasons, Voracek has 83 power-play assists in 364 games (0.22 power-play assists/games played), whereas Atkinson has 37 in 327 games (.11).

Power play assists are just one measure of overall success, I'll grant you that, and it obviously remains to be seen if Voracek can replicate that type of success without players like Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, James Van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny, etc. Still, it gave me confidence that we can expect a better power play than the one we've seen. The below video, courtesy of InStat, is a cut of each of his power-play assists over the past two seasons. 

Then there's the issue of team composition and salary cap structure. The Blue Jackets don't have the most talented lineup, but if they did have a redundant position, it's 'right-handed-scoring-winger', with Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand in the fold. On the contrary, the club has exactly one healthy winger who is an established playmaking threat in Gus Nyquist, to say nothing of Max Domi, who will miss at least the first month of the season. Alexandre Texier could be that player, and he's shown flashes, but the Blue Jackets are right to let him establish himself before gifting him a top-six role. Voracek immediately becomes the club's most dangerous passer and should compliment Laine in a way that nobody else could have, as we saw last year.

With an AAV of $8.25M for the next three seasons, Voracek is likely overpaid for his contributions. But for a rebuilding club, the extra $2.375M over Atkinson is a manageable overpay, especially when considering that the former's contract expires a year sooner than the latter.  

Voracek may not be the player he was even a few seasons ago, but he's still a highly gifted player who should provide a jolt to a power-play that needs all the help it can get. Between that and his contract ending one year earlier, he fits the current Blue Jackets needs better than Atkinson did.