Here we are, just days away from the NHL trade deadline. Monday afternoon marks the time where hopefuls become contenders and the less fortunate make their last minute attempts to gear up for the future. While fate may be set for some, there are a few teams who sit right on the bubble. This begs the million dollar question, to give or not to give?
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a prime example of this dilemma. While they currently sit one point inside of the playoff bubble, do they pose a realistic shot at making a deep run? Unfortunately, that question may have answered itself after the team’s leading scorer, Oliver Bjorkstrand was added to the list of many (and I mean many) injuries this season. He is expected to miss 8-10 weeks, so that answer is likely, no.
With that in mind, the deadline is the perfect time to take advantage of the inflated market and cash in on some future assets. After going all-in and selling a few picks at last season’s deadline, the Jackets have been left with a small gap in their 2020 Draft (no second or third-round selection). This is something they could address over the weekend, should they choose to go that route. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen is expected to make little-to-no moves, but take that with a grain of salt. The trade deadline is well-known for bringing in surprise deals and the Blue Jackets do have some pieces that could pique the interest of contenders.
Potential Trade Pieces
Anderson is without a doubt the Blue Jackets’ most intriguing asset heading into the deadline. Yes, he has only played 26 games this season. And yes, he has only four points in those games. However, the Ontario native could add tons of value to a team looking to make a splash in the postseason. While his offence is an added bonus, it’s his additional intangibles that make the 25-year-old so dynamic and highly valuable. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound winger plays a heavy, two-way game and can play up and down any lineup. He enjoys finding the dirty areas and has a nose to drive the net. In other words, he is built for a seven game series.
Anderson will be a restricted free agent (RFA) this July, and his $1.85 million cap hit is extremely team-friendly for a contender with little cap space. Given his lacklustre season, it’s not out of the question to see him re-sign for a cheap, short-term contract this summer. This not only makes him a great asset for now, but also for the future as he has likely yet to reach his full potential.
Potential Suitors: Winnipeg Jets, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames
Potential Return: High draft pick (potentially multiple) + high prospect + NHL-ready player.
While the team hasn’t necessarily expressed interest in trading away the 29-year-old blueliner, Savard could be a nice fit for any Stanley Cup contender. The right shot has one-year remaining on his team friendly $4.5 million cap hit, which is a decent price for what he brings.
He carries a big frame at 229 pounds and will do whatever it takes to shut down opponents. His 142 blocked shots are second in the league, averaging about seven blocks a night. Combine that with his 116 total hits, and you have one tough rear-guard who is a nightmare to play against. Try not to let his point total this season deter you (eight assists through 60 games); he moves the puck well and plays a very solid all-around game. Given the team’s injury woes, it will take quite the package to snag him up, but with the right offer, it shouldn’t be out of the question.
Potential Suitors: Toronto Maple Leafs, Flames, Edmonton Oilers
Potential Return: Semi-high draft pick + prospect or NHL-ready player.
Okay, he is not as big of a name as Anderson or Savard, however, Sonny Milano is an intriguing player to add to a trade package. He hasn’t quite lived up to the potential that the Jackets were hoping for when they drafted him 16th overall in the 2014. Yet, at just 23, he still has time to turn his career around. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, he has ultimately struggled to show consistency at the highest level, which is an area of concern for the coaching staff. Perhaps a change of scenery could give him the bump he needs to get his career back on track.
Milano brings a great deal of speed to a lineup and can chip-in on the scoresheet from time to time. He recently signed a one-year deal over the offseason worth just under $900,000, and given how his season has gone, he should come cheap yet again this July. Of course, he is not a game-changing asset who would make a huge immediate impact, but, if packaged correctly, he could still show some untapped potential and bring a new element to a bottom-six.
Potential Suitors: Any playoff contender
Potential Return: mid-tier draft pick
I know, I know, Korpisalo is finally having the breakout season (when healthy) the Blue Jackets have been waiting for. However, it’s important to take into consideration the team’s depth chart. Columbus is very strong between the pipes, and with his counterpart, Elvis Merzlikins, showing signs of brilliance, perhaps he (Merzlikins) is the answer the going forward. Korpisalo is skating again after missing nearly two months of time with a knee injury, but at the time of the injury, he was playing some of his best hockey. If the offer is there, it would not be the worst call to jump on a deal.
The 25-year-old netminder will be an RFA this summer and is likely to receive a nice pay day. Until than, he has a cap hit of just $1.15 million, which is worth the gamble to either lead or help out as a serviceable 1B option on many contending teams.
Potential Suitors: Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, Oilers
Potential Return: High draft pick + High prospect or NHL-ready player
Of course, Kekalainen could elect to hold off on any trades this Monday, riding out his players for the remainder of the season. After all, it was not that long ago that they were one of the hottest teams in the league. Sometimes all it takes is making the playoffs, and then anything can happen. It’s important to remember that there is always time to make moves in June before the draft begins, although the price drops significantly at that time of year. It should be an interesting weekend as usual; enjoy the madness.