Blue Jackets’ Trade Chips for the 2022 Offseason & Beyond

The end of one season and into another for the Columbus Blue Jackets. This should be a less busy offseason for general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen and his staff, but never count them out of the hustle and bustle of routine housekeeping transactions or even a sneaky big trade that seems to come out of nowhere.

Last offseason saw one of the larger overhauls in team history, with a very different Blue Jacket core squad taking the ice for the 2021-22 season. A lot more pieces are in place this offseason, but Kekäläinen is never shy to make a deal if it makes his team better, as there are a few pieces that are not glued down that could be traded this offseason and beyond. Let’s have a look at some of those and go a little in-depth into why they could be on the move.

Joonas Korpisalo

Here we go again. Following the re-signing of Joonas Korpisalo, the trade rumours that have accompanied him for a while are no doubt going to return along with him, as he is coming off of a historically bad year. We’re talking the worst goalie stats in the league last year. Out of goalies who played at least 20 games in a season, his .877 save percentage (SV%) was tied for the fifth-worst since 2000, and his 4.15 goals-against average (GAA) was the second-worst. Yikes.

Joonas Korpisalo Columbus Blue Jackets
Joonas Korpisalo is once again a good trade chip for the Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Korpisalo is no longer pushing Elvis Merzlikins for the starting job in net, but the decision to retain him does bring some consistency to the locker room while betting on a guy who really has nowhere to go but up. He’s got an All-Star pedigree as recently as two seasons ago and finally recovered from the injury that lingered throughout his worst season. So, there is reason to believe that he will bounce back and at $1.4 million for a season, his re-signing has a low-risk and high-reward factor to it.

Related: Korpisalo Re-Signing Keeps Blue Jackets’ Goaltending Stagnant

I would doubt Korpisalo is moved before the season begins, but if he bounces back to the level that Kekäläinen is betting he will, he might be moved closer to the 2023 Trade Deadline, as he could be very useful to a contender, especially on his now significantly smaller cap-hit.

Jake Bean

Jake Bean is an interesting case. In his first full season in the NHL, he showed offense in flashes. Scoring 25 points through 67 games is actually a pretty decent showing when you consider the role he played in Columbus, as he was kind of a utility player, sliding in wherever he was needed. He played around 20 minutes a night in all situations and was third in powerplay ice time and fourth in shorthanded ice time among defensemen.

It was an interesting experiment to squeeze him into so many situations because Bean has often been seen as an offense-first defenseman. The kind of guy who leads your top-powerplay unit and you throw out when you’re looking to get a goal late in a game. He played that role to near perfection in his 2019-20 season with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Charlotte Checkers when he led the team in scoring along with besting all defensemen league-wide as a 21-year-old.

Jake Bean Columbus Blue Jackets
Jake Bean could be pushed out by a defesive log jam in Columbus (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, with the Blue Jackets, Bean was third in line to quarterback a powerplay behind Zach Werenski and Adam Boqvist only averaging a minute per game with the man advantage. He was counted on for a more two-way game, sometimes balancing out other players like Boqvist to limited success. He was also pushed around quite a bit on a Jackets’ defense that has been often criticized for a lack of a physical presence. With another team, Bean could be a permanent fixture on a top unit and become that valuable offensive weapon from the point that teams love to unsheath.

Bean is capable of growing into a top-four role with an NHL team. When he was acquired, it seemed like there was room for another top-four defender with the Blue Jackets, but now with the emergence of Andrew Peeke and with Bean being so similar to Adam Boqvist – who is perceived as having a higher ceiling than him – he could be on the outside looking in moving forward.

Bean could have more value to the Blue Jackets on the trade market than sliding in as a bottom-pairing utility guy. With all of his offensive upside on a low cap hit for another two years, he’s a name that could be moved as soon as the 2022 Draft if the price is right.

Gustav Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist is another interesting case, as he is on the final year of his deal with the Blue Jackets with a cap hit of $5.5 million. If they retain salary in a trade, they could chop that number in half, which would be a steal for a forward who brings what he does.

Nyquist brings experience as a 33-year-old who has been in the league for a decade. With the Blue Jackets, he’s been counted on in a leadership role and has been exemplary in it ever since he joined the team as a free agent in 2019. He’s reliable and resilient, scoring around 20 goals and 50 points consistently throughout his career and rarely missing any games – bouncing back from a missed season by playing all 82 games this year. He’s great in all situations and a glue guy in the locker room and was even the Jackets’ best offensive weapon at times, who especially stepped up when they needed him to.

Gustav Nyquist Columbus Blue Jackets
Gustav Nyquist is a valuable trade chip for the Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nyquist brings a lot in the form of trade value, as he is their most valuable asset out of the expiring contracts that could be moved. The question is do the Jackets see all of that value as being more important as an asset to the youth on their roster who continue to develop, or does the logjam of talent on the wings make him expendable? He also loves Columbus, which it’s tough to trade a player who loves the city, but it has been done in recent history.

I would bet Nyquist makes it to opening night and might be moved dependent on the play of the young faces in the Jackets’ forward corps in Kent Johnson, Yegor Chinakhov, and Kirill Marchenko.

Wild Card: 2022 6th and/or 12th Overall Draft Picks

I would not bet on the Jackets trading these picks unless they are adding some other form of young talent in return. Be it a highly-touted prospect currently in another organization – who would have to be a lock – or as my colleague Mark Schieg has occasionally brought up, using those picks to trade up in the 2022 Draft or maybe even slide back a year into another top selection in the loaded 2023 Draft.

My money is on these picks remaining with Columbus through the draft where they add a couple more high-end pieces to the pipeline. However you never know with Kekäläinen, if the right deal presents itself, he’s just the kind of guy to say yes to it.

A Lot Going On for the Blue Jackets

As there often is for a “retooling” team, a lot of things are subject to change. A big free-agent signing or trade could change this picture moving into next season, but for now, there are a few pieces that the Jackets have available to move without massively changing the complexion of their future.

A lot of the decision-making will rely on the progression of Columbus’ wave of youth in Cole Sillinger, Johnson, Marchenko, Boqvist, Chinakhov, Peeke, and even more established talents we didn’t touch on like Patrik Laine, Alexandre Texier, and Jack Roslovic.

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