Western Roadtrip A Chance For Blue Jackets To Showcase Pending UFAs To Potential Trade Suitors

By Dan Dukart on January 23, 2023 at 10:15 am
Vladislav Gavrikov clears the puck from a Joonas Korpisalo save
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets will spend the coming week out west, playing four games against Pacific Division opponents in just six days.

On Monday, the Blue Jackets kick off the trip in Alberta as they take on the Calgary Flames, then on Wednesday play the Edmonton Oilers, before heading further west to play the Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken in a back-to-back affair on Friday and Saturday.

All four teams are in the NHL news cycle for different reasons. The Flames and Oilers, who expected to be among the top teams in the Western Conference, are battling for their playoff lives. The Oilers have been linked to Vladislav Gavrikov, and the Flames are similarly in win-now mode. The Kraken have been a pleasant surprise this year, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them add, particularly as they've amassed a significant amount of draft and prospect capital in their first couple of years in the NHL. The Canucks are a mess, but executive Jim Rutherford has never been shy to make a splash. In other words, these are four teams that could be expected to be active through the trade deadline.

Aside from Gavrikov, who seems likely to be moved at this juncture, the Blue Jackets are also reasonably likely to move pending UFAs Gus Nyquist and Joonas Korpisalo, provided there is a trade market. Jack Roslovic has also been mentioned as a possible trade candidate, though he's not on an expiring deal. 

Gavrikov is the most valuable trade asset of the four, a true second-pairing defenseman that can eat minutes, play penalty kill, and add the level of physicality that is required to win in the postseason. Nyquist would be a nice add to a contending team as well, as he can play up and down the lineup and chip in on special teams. Korpisalo has had a bounce-back year and would be a nice insurance policy for a team that is in the hunt. Roslovic has warts, but also appealing traits. His speed and ability to transport a puck between the neutral zone are valuable assets, and the Blue Jackets would probably welcome a trade.

A trip across Canada always comes with more eyeballs, and the reality is that, whether they win or lose these games, the stakes are high for the franchise as they look to sell off assets. 

This four-game stretch may not impact the Blue Jackets' place in the standings, but it comes with anticipation nonetheless. 

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