So the Blue Jackets Are Mailing It In Then
After weeks of speculation, Columbus finally parted company with Ryan Johansen, acquiring 21-year old Seth Jones from Nashville in a rare one-for-one swap.
Jones is a fine acquisition, but in parting with their number one centre – and best player – it’s hard not to feel like the Blue Jackets are drawing a line under the 2015/2016 season and looking toward next year already.
Again, Jones is a great pick up for Columbus, instantly replacing Johansen as the organisation’s best player whilst also providing the kind of elite defensive talent which earn players nicknames such as ‘cornerstone’.
Along side Ryan Murray, Jones arrival makes the Jackets blue line looks much better than it did 24 hours ago – when the first Columbus D man most people would have thought of was still Jack Johnson…
Moving forward, it’s a great move for the franchise – with Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen describing the former Portland Winterhawk as “a big, skilled defenseman who has the potential to be an elite performer in this league for many years to come”. All true.
But for the rest of this year, the 30th placed Columbus Blue Jackets will be operating with Brandon Dubinsky as their #1 centre.
For the record, I like Dubinsky in a ‘if he’s on your team you love him, if he’s an opponent you hate him’ sort of way. But he’s not a first line centre. But maybe that’s the point.
This campaign has been a disaster for Columbus. From the questionable decision to hire John Tortorella to the cap mess the club has created for itself, some are surprised Kekalainen was even in a position to make this deal, because he himself should have been shipped out.
But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Their chances of securing the first overall pick are likely to go up as a result of yesterday’s trade, moving them closer to coveted prospect Auston Matthews.
The longer they suck, the better.
At worst, the Blue Jackets would pick fourth if they maintain their place at the foot of the NHL, which means even if they miss out on Matthews they’d still get a shot at one of World Junior MVP Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Tkachuk (son of Coyotes legend Keith) or Patrik Laine.
At a push Mississauga centre Alex Nylander or Sarnia blue liner Jakob Chychrun might also be considered.
Whatever the outcome, the Blue Jackets stand to gain a good prospect. Perhaps even a franchise centre should they win the lottery and secure the first overall pick – but Puljujarvi, Tkachuk and Laine are all fine forwards in their own right, ones capable of making Columbus better long term.
Adding one of these young guns won’t solve the teams cap crisis – with too many players tied to deals above their ability – but in conjunction with now having an elite D man to hang their hat on, it does allow the organisation to start selling hope in a serious way again.
Bobrovsky won’t be hurt forever, they have a stud D man and they’ll add an elite youngster to their ranks. The future would be somewhat brighter for Columbus.
Kekalainen now needs to ensure he locks up impending RFA’s Jones, Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray and do his damnedest to ship others out of Ohio. Fix the relationship with Kerby Rychel, who recently requested a trade, or use him as a sweetener to ditch one of the clubs bloated veteran deals on to someone else. Just clear the deck as best possible. Start over basically.
No set of fans has endured as much crap as those in Columbus.
Now they organisation needs to make sure Johansen is the last star that slips through it’s fingers and build something great. Something that market deserves.