Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has made it clear that he'd like to use the No. 22 pick, the second of two first-round picks the Jackets have in this year's draft, to get the team some immediate help.
"Obviously, our first pick is not going to be in play," Kekalainen told the media on March 1. "But the pick that we acquired [from the LA Kings] and some of the future picks, that we have plenty of now, will be in play to try to improve our team next year but not just next year, into the future, into the same window where we see our young group developing into a playoff team and a playoff and cup contender."
Whether or not this pick will be traded for immediate NHL help remains to be seen as the NHL Draft is still over five weeks away, but there's a discussion to be had about the pros and cons of trading this pick.
Pros of trading the No. 22 Pick
For one, the Jackets would be receiving immediate help, adding an NHL player to a team that is looking to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2020. Not only would the move itself help the Jackets right now, but it would be a sign to the fanbase that Kekalainen and Co. are serious about winning right now. Not that they should need to show that, but if there is any doubt that Kekalainen craves winning, a move like this would certainly calm any doubt about what the Jackets are trying to accomplish in the off-season.
Additionally, recent history shows that first-round picks, regardless if they are early or late in the round, can be part of trade packages for good players. On February 28, 2023, the Capitals acquired Rasmus Sandin from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Erik Gustafsson and the 28th overall pick in this year's draft. Earlier that month, the Maple Leafs acquired Ryan O'Reilly from the Blues in exchange for a package centered around the 25th pick in next month's draft. On September 19, 2022, the Stars acquired promising young blue-liner Nils Lundkvist from the Rangers for the 30th pick in the 2023 Draft and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.
Last week, we went over the last 25 No. 22 overall picks, and it's safe to say that drafting a solid NHL player in that spot is more or less a coin flip, so trading for an established NHL contributor would make a lot of sense.
Right now, it's unclear which players from other teams will be on the trade market, but history shows the Blue Jackets will be able to acquire a solid NHL player with the No. 22 pick.
Cons of trading the No. 22 pick
Most of the cons here are based on speculation and won't be able to be assessed until after this potential trade is made. There will be basic questions to answer. Who did they trade for? What is the player's cap hit? What is the player's term?
Even with all their injuries last year, the Blue Jackets are still a ways away from being competitors. However, that can be changed with a massive roster overhaul, which trading the No. 22 pick would help with. What happens if the player the team acquires has a year left on their contract and doesn't want to re-sign in Columbus? What if the player they acquire has a long-term deal but underperforms? If the Blue Jackets make the No. 22 pick, they will be adding another top prospect to one of, if not the best prospect pool in the NHL that can help the team in the long-term.
Prospects, like draft picks, are assets that can be traded to acquire NHL-ready talent. However, if the Jackets decide to trade the No. 22 pick, they will do so believing that it will help them in the present and the future.
If you were in Kekalainen's chair, what would you do?