The trade deadline is finally over. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, they can get back to the business at hand. They have 18 games left to try and finish their season on a strong note.
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There’s lots of news surrounding them as they embark on their latest road trip. Let’s start with a pair of players returning to their former teams.
Laine & Roslovic Return to Winnipeg
After a couple days off, the Blue Jackets return to the ice on Friday night to play the Winnipeg Jets. With that comes a return to Canada Life Centre for a pair of former Jets.
Both Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic make their return to Winnipeg for the first time since the trade that saw them come to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Laine played his first 306 games with the Jets while Roslovic suited up in 180 games.
Each player spoke on Thursday before they left for Winnipeg about their return and what to expect. For Laine, he expects it to be fun.
“It’ll be fun. It’ll be exciting to go back,” Laine said to the media. “Yeah that’s pretty much it. It will be exciting to go back…to see them (and) play against old teammates since I didn’t get the chance when they played here. To play in front of those great fans again will be fun and to see everyone at the rink. I’m kind of nervous which way to go. I haven’t been at the visitor’s locker room ever.”
Roslovic too is looking forward to Friday night.
“Yeah, it will be cool,” Roslovic said. “It’s different. I played a lot of games there. But it will be fun to see the arena, see the city, see the fans and see former teammates.”
As for the trade itself, it has worked out for the Blue Jackets with Laine’s resurgence this season and Roslovic continuing to develop. The only question with Laine is how long will the next contract be.
With Roslovic, despite some early struggles, he’s really come along and has assumed the role of number-one center while Boone Jenner has been out with a back injury. The question here is do the Blue Jackets see him as a future center and thus a part of their core? For now though, he’s improved and is as confident as he’s ever been with the Blue Jackets.
Related: Jack Roslovic Talks Overcoming Struggles, Confidence and More
Friday will bring each player a lot of attention from the Winnipeg media. This has been two years in the making.
Korpisalo’s Season is Over
The Blue Jackets got some very unfortunate news on Thursday when they announced that goaltender Joonas Korpisalo will miss the rest of the season with a hip injury. He will have surgery and is expected to fully recover in six months.
What a tough season this has been for Korpisalo. He was no longer the number-one goalie. Then he struggled most of the year only to find himself in constant trade rumors. He stays past the deadline to play in one game and now he will have surgery.
Of note, the injury according to the team has been lingering for a while. They decided the surgery is the best course of action. With Koprisalo being a pending UFA, the possibility exists that he has played his last game with the Blue Jackets. Of course most of us thought this on Monday as well. This could come down to Daniil Tarasov’s status.
Tarasov also had surgery and was expected to be out six months. If he’s ready, one would think he and Merzlikins start as the tandem in net. But if he’s not ready, perhaps Korpisalo comes back on a one-year deal to try and redeem himself.
Let’s see how the offseason and recoveries play out here.
An Explosive Offseason Coming?
The Blue Jackets had a quiet trade deadline with just the Max Domi three-way trade. But it was what GM Jarmo Kekalainen said after the deadline that stood out.
“I’ve said all along that I think the moves we’re looking to make are offseason trades,” Kekalainen said. “There’s not a lot of teams at this time of year especially the ones that are gearing up for the playoffs that want to give up anything off their roster.”
A closer look at the roster indicates two major needs for the Blue Jackets. They need a top-six center and a top-four defenseman. They weren’t going to get that caliber of player at the deadline without mortgaging their future. So it only makes sense to defer those decisions to the offseason.
Cole Sillinger has played admirably for someone playing their rookie season as an 18-year old. He projects as a top-six center as the years go on. Jenner has had a great season before his injury. But you ideally want to see him in the middle-six on a good roster.
Is Kent Johnson the center of the future? Can they get some lottery luck and draft a franchise-altering center? No matter how they do it, it’s a need. Therefore you can expect the Blue Jackets to explore all options in this area.
The same goes for the defense. Their issue has been inexperience. Players will get stronger and more confident in time. But they need someone else that can eat a bunch of minutes in the top-four. Zach Werenski can do that. Vladislav Gavrikov is in a good spot. Andrew Peeke has really come of age this season. Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist have the talent but do need to get stronger.
There’s a reason why they were linked to Jakob Chychrun. He would be a great fit on this blue line, a big, physical defender that can add offense. The Blue Jackets have to get stronger on defense. There could be potential options on the open market should they not be able to find a trade.
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The Blue Jackets will convene and decide which players to target and then see what they are able to do. But Kekalainen openly admitting the moves they want to make are in the offseason suggest some change is coming. That change could be some big changes.
The Blue Jackets have assets, cap space and a general manager not afraid to get what he wants if he identifies it. The ingredients are there for an explosive offseason. Let’s reserve judgment on that until it actually happens.
- The Blue Jackets activated Boqvist from injured reserve on Thursday. He is expected to play Friday in Winnipeg.
- Brad Larsen said on Thursday he expects Merzlikins to get a bulk of the starts in the final 18 games. J-F Berube is the other goalie on the roster with Korpisalo set for surgery.
- There’s a good chance the Blue Jackets will be the opponent for Marc-Andre Fleury’s Minnesota Wild debut on Saturday.
- Johnson and Michigan Hockey open their NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon against AIC. The thing to watch is when Michigan’s tournament is over. The expectation is that Johnson would join the Blue Jackets after. That could be here before you know it.