Monday, March 21st: The NHL's trade deadline for the 2021-22 season.
Which means that Saturday, March 19th — when the Columbus Blue Jackets battle the St. Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena — could be the final game for several players currently donning a Columbus sweater.
Some players departure seems almost inevitable. For others, a deadline move would come as a surprise — but can't be entirely written off. Columbus is a young team, and one that is going to get even younger in the near future with the likes of Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko on the way as soon as next season. These players will need to have room made for them, either at the deadline or during the offseason.
And this season, while it got off to a fine start, is for naught from a competitive standpoint. Getting guys like Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov playing time, letting Adam Boqvist develop against top opposing talents, etc. — this is the key to the season. The playoffs are not a reality. As of Monday, the Blue Jackets are 11 points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wildcard slot. Columbus is 16 points behind the third-place team in the metropolitan division, the last that would clinch an automatic spot. For the Blue Jackets to get to 97 points, which has been the five-season average for the final playoff spot, they would need to accumulate 62 points in their final 46 games. In other words, about 30-14-2. This season, though, the Bruins are on pace for 107 points, meaning that at this rate, Columbus would need to go roughly 35-9-2.
Here is a first look at which Blue Jackets may be on the way out:
Odds Of A Trade: 95%
No move seems more likely for the Blue Jackets — and perhaps the entire NHL — than the trade of Korpisalo. The Blue Jackets have made a five-year commitment to Elvis Merzlikins that begins next season at an average annual value of $5.4 million. Korpisalo is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could (and would) leave at the end of the season with Columbus getting nothing in return. Korpisalo is having an awful season, but at least a chunk of that can be placed on an inexperienced Blue Jackets blue line. He has proven he can play the position, especially with a good defense in front of him. The return won't be much — likely a mid-round draft pick — but there are multiple teams that need a goaltender to have any hopes of a Stanley Cup playoff run. The Edmonton Oilers stick out like a sore thumb as an example of this, but a team like the Colorado Avalanche can't be ruled out either. Something else to consider: does a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning desire a backup plan for Andrei Vasilevskiy? The Lightning know full well what Korpisalo is capable of in the postseason, and their current backup is the 36-year-old Brian Elliot, who has an .899 save percentage in a back-up role.
Odds Of A Trade: 75%
Another unrestricted free agent, the Blue Jackets were ready to move on from Domi after a disappointing 2020-21 season. They left him unprotected in the expansion draft, but the Seattle Kraken didn't bite. Domi has been much better this season, with eight goals and nine assists in 26 games. Over an 82-game pace, Domi would be on pace for a 53-point season. Surely, there will be a market for the versatile 26-year-old forward. Like with Korpisalo, a draft pick (perhaps somewhere in the third round) seems more likely than a player in return. Elliotte Friedman of TSN recently suggested that the Bruins may have interest in Domi to add a secondary scoring threat. They're not the only team that could use that for a postseason run, though. The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues are both making a run at the Avalanche for the central division crown, and Domi's grit and scoring ability could help make such a charge.
Odds Of A Trade: 50%
The solid, steady presence of Nyquist has seen him moved at the deadline once already in his career. The former Detroit Red Wing was shipped to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round draft pick at the 2019 deadline as the Red Wings continued a youth movement. Sound familiar? At 32, Nyquist is the second-oldest Blue Jacket on the roster behind Jakub Voracek, and that veteran leadership could be helpful for a younger team hoping to make a run. He'll be an unrestricted free agent after next season, so the commitment would not be long term. The New York Rangers come to mind as a team that could benefit from Nyquist, but it's always tough to make a trade with a division rival. Like with Domi, the Wild could be a team that calls Columbus in the coming weeks on Nyquist. Other young teams that could make some noise in May and use a Nyquist-esque presence are the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, and yes — the Sharks.
Odds Of A Trade: 40%
Another name mentioned in trade circles, this time it's Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravelli who suggest that Columbus is shopping Roslovic. After a miserable start to the season, the Columbus native has improved and is at 6-10-16 on the season. Still, the feeling is that Roslovic hasn't meshed with the Blue Jackets in the way they had hoped. He is averaging 12:21 of ice time per game, down almost five minutes from last season and down over two minutes from his final season in Winnipeg, when he felt he wasn't getting enough ice time. A myriad of teams looking for a secondary scoring threat would be just to check in on his availability.
Odds Of A Trade: 5%
This does not seem likely, but Laine — for the second straight year — will be a restricted free agent when the season ends. The 23-year-old seems to enjoy Columbus, especially with the culture change following the departure of former head coach John Tortorella. Laine certainly would like a long-term commitment though, and if the Blue Jackets are hesitant to give it to him, it's possible (though again, unlikely) that Laine could find himself elsewhere.