Facing an uncertain future, the Columbus Blue Jackets needed to have a big offseason. Thanks to some shrewd moves and the willingness to make some hard decisions, they were able to gain a lot of momentum heading into the 2021-22 season.
In particular, three decisions the Blue Jackets made stand out that has helped them supercharge this offseason and perhaps shorten the length of time needed to get back to where they hope to go. These moves were so good that they can be considered “perfect” given the circumstances.
Let’s start with the obvious one. Draft night.
Blue Jackets Enjoy Best Draft Night in Their History
No this heading is not a stretch. With all due respect to the night the Blue Jackets drafted Rick Nash first overall, the 2021 NHL Draft first round will be remembered for a long time as one of the best days in the history of the franchise. In order for them to do that though, they had to trade one of their best players.
Seth Jones did not want to extend with the Blue Jackets. His list of teams he would extend with was very short. GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his staff grinded away to find a deal that made it work for both sides.
Although the Blue Jackets didn’t land a player like Kirby Dach or Alex DeBrincat, they landed a very interesting and promising player in Adam Boqvist. To add to that, they got a draft pick that they were able to flip to get another interesting defenseman in Jake Bean. And to finish it off, they got an upgraded first-round pick in 2021 and Chicago’s first rounder in 2022.
With that upgraded pick in 2021, the Blue Jackets landed C Cole Sillinger. Add him to the other two firsts in Kent Johnson and Corson Ceulemans and you got the makings of a future core. If they were going to lose Jones, they had to maximize the return. Addressing both their centers of the future and their current defense is a job well done.
Given the circumstances, this trade worked out perfectly from a Blue Jackets’ perspective. And they own two firsts in a loaded top of the 2022 draft. We will look back 5-10 years and beyond from now to this draft as a potential major turning point in the franchise.
Ah but the Blue Jackets were not done making perfect decisions in this offseason.
Acquiring Jakub Voracek
This trade stunned Blue Jackets’ fans. Their longest-tenured player and community giant was gone in a flash. Cam Atkinson now finds himself on the Philadelphia Flyers. And the Blue Jackets bring in Jakub Voracek.
You can hate the contract all you want given the money. But there are immediate benefits to this trade from a Blue Jackets’ perspective. In terms of the money, it was about even how much is owed to each player. However the Blue Jackets shaved a year of term off by acquiring Voracek while giving up Atkinson. In a flat-cap world, that’s a big deal.
But on the ice, Voracek is a better fit on this current roster than Atkinson was. The Blue Jackets just did not have enough good playmakers at the top of their lineup. You can have as many shooters as you want, but someone has to get them the puck. Voracek will get you the puck. He’s been one of the best at doing just that in the last five years.
With that said, Patrik Laine, Oliver Bjorkstrand and others should benefit greatly from having Voracek on the team. Of course this depends on how coach Brad Larsen decides to deploy Voracek. But there are intriguing possibilities. This also extends to the power play were Voracek and Boqvist give the Blue Jackets a fresh look.
Just in terms of the current roster, Voracek for Atkinson was a perfect trade. We’ll see in time if things work out as expected but it is easy to see the mindset in making this deal. If we get the Laine we all know he’s capable of being, it gives the Blue Jackets a different look and feel to them.
It was a very tough decision by the Blue Jackets to move on from Atkinson. But in the end, they couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. They needed a new direction. Voracek is a new direction and one that could prove beneficial over the next three years.
Staying Away From Jack Eichel
Sometimes it’s the trades you don’t make that turn out to be good decisions later. In this case, the Blue Jackets at least for now not pursuing a Jack Eichel trade is a perfect decision. There are just too many things in the air for this to make sense.
Eichel is still in Buffalo for now and we really don’t know what will happen next. Whatever it is, it seems things are not going over very well from his perspective.
The status of his injury is an obvious question. If he needs the surgery, how long will he be out? And does an acquiring team take that chance given where things stand? Eichel is a great player but with so many what if’s and questions, it’s not in the best interest of the Blue Jackets to pursue him at the current price point.
That’s the other reason not acquiring Eichel is a perfect move for the Blue Jackets. They do not have the pieces the Sabres would want in a potential return. When you are building for the future, giving up your future is not good business.
There is always the chance the Sabres feel pressure and have to lower their price. The Blue Jackets are certainly interested in Eichel at a lower price point. If the Sabres retain part of his salary and the Blue Jackets don’t have to mortgage the farm, they would certainly look into it further.
But based on what we know right now, the Blue Jackets are set to embark on the 2021-22 season without them acquiring Eichel. As good as Eichel is, that’s a very good thing for the Blue Jackets. It’s actually perfect.
This offseason started out with immeasurable uncertainty. But thanks to a trio of perfect moves, the Blue Jackets have a clear direction and focus on the future that has given this fanbase hope that was clearly missing for the longest time.
Go ahead. You can say the Blue Jackets made some perfect decisions this offseason. That’s because they did and are all the better for it.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.