With just 19 games left in the shortened NHL season, the Columbus Blue Jackets have dropped four out of the last five and are in sixth place in Central Division. That’s two spots out of the playoffs.
The biggest struggle for Columbus has been down the middle. With that being said, they will most likely be looking for a first-line center at this season’s trade deadline (Monday, April 12 at 3 P.M. ET).
The Blue Jackets have multiple assets that could be used in a package to fill this missing piece, but some players will be off-limits in trade talks. This piece will profile four of those who will be untouchable at the deadline and why.
Columbus’ Top Defensive Pair
Two players that will be untouchable are Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, the Blue Jackets’ top defensive pairing. Columbus would need to see a return that not team will be able to or willing to offer if the team even makes them part of a package (which is doubtful).
Jones is the team’s alternate captain, and the organization will be looking to extend his contract in Columbus. In 362 games played, he has 640 blocks (fourth most in franchise history), 214 takeaways, and a career plus/minus of plus-8. Jones also has a career Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 51.4 with the Blue Jackets, meaning that the team has more shot attempts when he is on the ice than when he’s not.
Werenski has also been a force defensively for Columbus. In his five seasons with the Blue Jackets, he has 362 blocks, 138 takeaways, and a plus/minus of plus-14. He also has a career CF% of 52.2.
While both players are great defensively, they also are big factors on offense. With 214 points, Jones is the all-time scoring leader among defensemen in franchise history, and Werenski is Columbus’ top goal-scoring defenseman with 62 goals.
The Blue Jackets will not be letting go of Jones anytime soon. He could easily end up being the next captain for Columbus if they can get a contract extension done. While Werenski is untouchable for the deadline, with much of the organization’s resources eventually going towards a Jones extension, Werenski may be a part of a future package with his value.
Cam Atkinson is another player Columbus is unlikely to be traded or even offered up at the deadline.
In his 10-season career, Atkinson has become the second-leading scorer in franchise history (behind Rick Nash) with 393 points (211 goals and 182 assists). He also has the team’s second-highest plus/minus at plus-30, only behind Artemi Panarin (plus-37).
Atkinson also is invaluable on special teams. He also has the second-most power-play points in franchise history with 93. He also has the most shorthanded goals all-time with 16.
Atkinson is not just a major part of the organization on the ice, but he has become an ingrained community member. Some of those efforts include a virtual 5K to help fund rapid COVID-19 testing at Riverside Methodist Hospital and a Cameo campaign to help R-Bar and other local businesses in Columbus affected by the pandemic.
Atkinson is a major part of the franchise on and off the ice. It is extremely likely he will ever be moved unless he wants to be. He is definitely untouchable at the deadline for Columbus.
Patrik Laine is another player who will be considered untouchable at the trade deadline for Columbus.
He has yet to really light up the scoresheet, recording 14 points in 27 games for the Blue Jackets. However, Laine has been key on the power-play unit, recording five power-play points, including a team-high four goals on the man advantage in his short stay in Columbus.
Laine is a shooter with a big one-timer. He needs a center who can consistently win faceoffs and dish the puck to him in his one-time shot position. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets lack the tools Laine needs to succeed and would benefit greatly from a Blue Jackets trade for a first-line center.
Based on the hole in the power play Laine has filled and what the Blue Jackets gave up to get him (Pierre-Luc Dubois), the only way he will be leaving Columbus is if they are unable to ink an extension.
Are These Blue Jackets Really “Untouchable?”
The answer is simple, no player is truly “untouchable,” especially on this Blue Jackets team. Some of the players mentioned above certainly could be a part of trade packages in the future, or still could be dealt at the deadline, but for a hefty price.
The Blue Jackets desperately need a center (and much more); however, it is unlikely that any of the above-discussed players will be used to fill that gap. I expect the players mentioned in this piece to finish the season with Columbus.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.