The Columbus Blue Jackets could be close to a return. Maybe.
Monday marks 11 days since their last game, a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Their game in Calgary was postponed. Their games against the Buffalo Sabres were postponed. Their game that was supposed to be Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs was postponed.
Tuesday’s game in Chicago against Seth Jones and the Blackhawks has also been postponed. That leaves their next available game against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Since it’s been a while, we figured this would be a good time to catch you up on the latest around the team, specifically the COVID situation and a few injury updates. Let’s start with some good news.
Three Players Taken Out of Protocol
The Blue Jackets on Monday activated Gabriel Carlsson, Andrew Peeke and Jack Roslovic off the NHL’s COVID-19 list. They now could be close enough to ice a roster come Thursday night.
Remember that the quarantine period lasts for 10 days. Roslovic reached that threshold and was allowed to be activated. Carlsson and Peeke each returned two negative tests 24 hours apart and were allowed to rejoin the team prior to the end of the quarantine period.
All three players were at practice Monday. That leaves three players (Joonas Korpisalo, Boone Jenner and Eric Robinson) still in protocol. On Monday, the Blue Jackets added a fourth player to COVID protocol.
Oliver Bjorkstrand Added to Protocol
Forward Oliver Bjorkstrand was added to the COVID protocol list on Monday. Because he was just added to the list, he is likely out for the next four games unless it was a false positive or he can produce two negative tests in 24 hours like Carlsson and Peeke did.
Testing continues daily under the enhanced protocols. Given the widespread news around the league surrounding COVID protocol, it’s possible others could join the list with each passing day. It’s best to treat everything as day-to-day, even minute-to-minute given all of the uncertainty.
There are a few injuries/absences of note to discuss.
- Patrik Laine is back skating with his teammates and participating in practice. He is still listed on IR but it’s assumed he’s close to ready. The issue is conditioning and the lack of practices recently. Coach Brad Larsen said on Sunday that they continue to monitor Laine’s status. With Tuesday’s game postponed which will allow some extra practice days, we could see Laine as soon as Thursday, if the game happens.
- Adam Boqvist seems like the closest of the bunch to return. He’s still on IR due to an upper-body injury he suffered back on Dec 9 against Anaheim. Assuming no setbacks, Thursday is a possibility for him to play.
- Dean Kukan suffered a wrist fracture back in October and was expected to miss eight weeks. The fact he is back to skating is a good sign. However Larsen said Kukan is still “a bit away.” Expect a January return here.
- Jake Voracek left practice early on Sunday and wasn’t on the ice Monday. There is no indication that this is a COVID related issue. But the fact he hasn’t practiced is something to monitor this week. Perhaps we’ll get an update in the coming days once they assess him.
The Return of the Squad
It’s back. The taxi squad is again available for teams as a tool from now until the All-Star Break. However what can be done is more limited than before. Here is the rundown of how the taxi squads can be used.
- Clubs will be permitted to form Taxi Squads on a temporary basis beginning on Dec. 26, 2021 (subject to Holiday Roster Freeze restrictions), and lasting through the date of their final game prior to the scheduled dates for the 2022 All-Star Break. After each Club’s final game before the All-Star Break, its Taxi Squad will dissolve. Clubs may then recall or Reassign the Players that were assigned to the Taxi Squad.
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- Clubs will be permitted to assign a maximum of six (6) Players to their Taxi Squad. All such assignments will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable. No individual Player may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.
- Players on Loan to the Taxi Squad will be permitted to travel and practice with the NHL Club, however, such Players can only play in an NHL Game if recalled and placed on the NHL Club’s Active Roster before such NHL Game (and no later than the appropriate 5:00 p.m. deadline). Although not all Players on Loan to the Taxi Squad are required to travel to all away games, it is recommended that a sufficient number of Taxi Squad Players travel with the Club to ensure an adequate number of Players are available for Recalls as may be necessary.
In addition, a Club shall be permitted to recall a Player pursuant to the Roster Emergency Exception with an Averaged Amount (if calculated exclusive of Exhibit 5 Performance Bonuses) that is no more than $1,000,000. For purposes of clarity, any Performance Bonuses earned by a Player recalled pursuant to Section 50.10(e) shall be included in determining a Club’s Performance Bonus Overage for the 2022-23 season.
In short, the taxi squad cannot be used as a cap savings tool. This is here to ensure that as many games can be played with a full roster as possible while avoiding postponements.
The Blue Jackets added both Josh Dunne and Tyler Sikura to their taxi squad on Monday. Depending on circumstances, each might have to be ready to play.
What might be true one minute might be different the next. Stay tuned with us as we’ll keep you updated up to the minute on the latest surrounding the potential return to play for the Blue Jackets.
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.