Blue Jackets News & Rumors: Gavrikov, Jiricek & More

Welcome back to hockey. Hope everyone enjoyed their time in the way you wanted. Business on several fronts is about to pick back up in a big way.

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The World Junior Championship is getting underway. Make sure you follow our Blain Potvin and Trege Wilson as they will each be on site for the tournament.

And then starting Tuesday night, NHL games are back on the schedule. This week in Blue Jackets News & Rumors, we will touch on happenings both in the NHL and in the World Junior Championship. One of the biggest names available at the NHL Trade Deadline has spoken about his situation.

Gavrikov Focused on Hockey

While big-name players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will get a lot of the headlines, Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov will be a popular target for contending teams. True defensive defensemen are at a premium this time of year.

Latest News & Highlights

Gavrikov recently spoke to Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch about what his future holds. Here are a couple of key highlights from that conversation (From “Will Blue Jackets end Gavrikov’s time in Columbus with a trade?”, Brian Hedger, the Columbus Dispatch, 12/26/2022)

  • Hedger says the main sticking point is a contractual issue as opposed to the player expressing a desire to leave.
  • Here’s Gavrikov: “That’s part of the game, right? It’s part of the business, so I’m ready for anything. You’ve got to stay a pro, right? And you’ve got to take what’s in front of you. I have to not think about it so much. I’m just focused on my game and the team, so that’s it. There’s nothing I can change right now.”
  • Hedger says the belief is that the Blue Jackets do not want to commit to a deal at his demands, which could exceed $5 million per season.
  • GM Jarmo Kekalainen would not discuss particulars, but did say this to Hedger via text message: ““We have the utmost respect for Vladi the player and Vladi the person/teammate, and have made that very clear to him.”

From this, you can surmise that Gavrikov would be interested in staying with the Blue Jackets should a deal get reached. However indications seem to point to a potential trade as the gap appears to be wide.

Vladislav Gavrikov Columbus Blue Jackets
Vladislav Gavrikov seems open to staying, but there’s no guarantee of that. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The question at hand then becomes should the Blue Jackets meet whatever the demand is to ensure Gavrikov stays with them? They will offer what they think is fair. But if the ask by the player exceeds that, then they’ll have no choice but to explore what they could get in a trade.

Let’s look at a possible comparable situation to see what others in his situation got on their next deal. Entering this week’s games, Gavrikov has played in 237 games in his NHL career. He has 14-58-72 in those games, a points per game average of 0.30. Five of his 14 goals are game winners including two in overtime. After being drafted in the sixth round in 2015, he made his NHL debut in 2019.

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Gavrikov signed his entry-level deal at age 22 and played two seasons. Then he signed a three-year, $8.4 million second contract. He will be due a raise. The question becomes how much of a raise will he get.

A player that has a slightly different situation but similar career numbers is John Marino. He signed a 6-year deal for an AAV of $4.4 million in 2021. It’s noteworthy that Marino’s base salary next season jumps to $5.25 million and then $6.15 million in 2024-25.

Marino has played 221 games in his career and has 13-60-73 in those games (0.33 points per game), which is very similar to Gavrikov’s production. The cost of a top-four defender is not cheap. But this does show why a number around $5 million seems to be the belief.

John Marino New Jersey Devils
John Marino’s career numbers are very similar to Gavrikov’s at this stage. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

What makes this tricky from a Blue Jackets’ perspective is that their blue line is already thin enough. Now they’re facing a tough decision of moving on from one of their most experienced defenders. An already inexperienced group would lose an important player.

Related: Oilers & Blue Jackets Can Be Partners on a Blockbuster Trade

But then on the other side, Gavrikov’s performance shows that he’s currently being overpaid as compared to the market, with a surplus value of -$3.5 million (From “NHL Player Cards: Columbus Blue Jackets“, The Athletic, Shayna Goldman and Dom Luszczyszyn, 12/19/2022). His defensive metrics according to his card rank him in the second percentile league wide. Paying him over $5 million could be a tough pill to swallow for the Blue Jackets.

Regardless of how it plays out, this will be a story to watch as we approach the trade deadline. The door is not closed. But unless there’s a sudden change, a trade does appear to be the most likely outcome.

Jiricek’s Bumpy Trip to Halifax

David Jiricek is getting another chance to perform on the big stage at the World Junior Championship. He will join fellow Blue Jackets’ prospects Martin Rysavy and Stanislav Svozil. His trip to Halifax will unfortunately be one to remember and not for the right reasons.

According to Jiricek’s agent Allan Walsh, his equipment got lost in transit. Jiricek was able to make it to Halifax after several delays. But his gear is not there. Czechia’s first game is Monday night against Team Canada.

Stay tuned on this developing story. At last check, Air Canada responded to a request for review by Walsh as to the status of the missing equipment. If Jiricek’s gear doesn’t not arrive in time, he could miss their tournament opener. We will update as new developments come out. Author’s note: Jiricek’s equipment has arrived in Halifax. He is expected to play against Team Canada on Monday night.

Side Dishes

  • The Blue Jackets did send Josh Dunne back to AHL Cleveland. His ice time was limited in the loss to the Blackhawks. It could point to someone being close to ready for a return from injured reserve.
  • Joonas Korpisalo played well in relief on Friday night in Chicago. The Blue Jackets need any and all good news these days. Getting a strong performance in net from him certainly qualifies.
  • Something to watch for. Finding motivation for these games given their place in the standings. Some players will have no trouble with this. However others could struggle with it. Will they give their best effort? Will they be prepared for the games? Brad Larsen will have to watch for this especially from some of the veterans. They need to set the right example for their young players even in a down season.
  • The Blue Jackets are scheduled to host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. The situation in downtown Buffalo is awful with the snow. There is a travel ban. Their airport is closed until Tuesday morning. Will the Sabres be able to get to Columbus? As of this writing, no word from the Sabres yet as to an update. The Buffalo Bills flew back from Chicago to Rochester. The Sabres could fly out of a different airport. Otherwise the potential of a gameday flight exists. The forecast Monday calls for another 6-12 inches in parts of Buffalo on top of the 3-4 feet some places already have. For now though, the game is on until we are told otherwise. Stay tuned. Author’s note: The game has been postponed due to the severe weather in Buffalo that has closed their airport. A makeup date will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.
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