Blue Jackets Use Trade Deadline to Setup Big Offseason

The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline for the Columbus Blue Jackets ended up more housekeeping than anything else. However that meant some big changes have taken place.

Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo, two recent mainstays of the Blue Jackets, now reside with the Los Angeles Kings. Two other veterans in Gus Nyquist and Jake Voracek also have new homes with Nyquist going to the Minnesota Wild while Voracek’s contract was sent to the Arizona Coyotes.

Vladislav Gavrikov Columbus Blue Jackets
Vladislav Gavrikov’s trade signals some big changes are coming this offseason. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This is both business housekeeping and a sign that things are changing around the Blue Jackets. If these moves are any indication, it sets up for a potentially big offseason in Columbus.

Blue Jackets Want to Win Soon

It’s no secret that everyone on the Blue Jackets is ready to move on to the future. The 2022-23 season continues to be one full of injuries for key players. The team announced on Friday morning that Sean Kuraly would miss around six weeks with a left-oblique strain that he suffered in practice on Thursday.

Being at or near the bottom of the NHL standings has worn on everyone. The Blue Jackets aren’t in a full rebuild. Therefore they are looking to start winning as soon as possible.

Their trades suggest they want to get on the right track sooner rather than later. Part of the return for Gavrikov and Korpisalo was a conditional first round pick in 2023 from the Kings. This stands if the Kings make the playoffs. Otherwise, the Blue Jackets get a 2023 and 2024 second rounder.

That first rounder could prove to be very significant in the offseason in the leadup to the draft in Nashville. If the Blue Jackets want to win soon, they must address their blue line especially with Gavrikov gone.

The Blue Jackets are not trading their own 2023 pick. But potentially owning the Kings’ first rounder could lead to a variety of options. They could use the pick as a sweetener to acquire a top-four defenseman.

The Blue Jackets missed out on Jakob Chychrun as he was traded to the Ottawa Senators. The question now becomes do they like the progress of their young defense or do they feel they need to bring in a veteran presence?

But That’s Not All

The other question that would be considered in the offseason would be the state of their centers. Boone Jenner has done a fine job holding down the fort. But if an opportunity to improve came about, the Blue Jackets will not hesitate to review.

Their 2023 pick could be the golden ticket to Connor Bedard. Even if it’s not, they have a variety of players available in the draft that could act as their eventual number-one center. Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Will Smith and others are there.

Barring Bedard, many of the others would not be ready next season. That points to the Blue Jackets seeing what they can do to attract a top-six center. The chance to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine could prove large for players deciding where to sign. Maybe a trade could happen too. Oh the possibilities.

The need for a top-six center and a top-four defenseman prove that this could be a big offseason for the Blue Jackets. They cannot allow another season like this season to happen.

The moves the Blue Jackets have made point to a big offseason.

  • Voracek’s full cap hit is off the books. That provides the Blue Jackets flexibility in landing a top player.
  • Michael Hutchinson will backup Elvis Merzlikins for the rest of the season barring injury. That allows Daniil Tarasov to play games in the AHL. He is expected to be the primary backup to Merzlikins once 2023-24 starts.
  • Nyquist being gone also points to a potential need for a veteran forward. On one hand, playing the youth would serve them well. On the other land, losing the leadership of Nyquist is a big loss. How does the team balance that aspect of making a potential lineup?
Gustav Nyquist Columbus Blue Jackets
Gustav Nyquist is a big loss for the Blue Jackets from a leadership standpoint. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blue Jackets as expected did not complete any trades on Friday. They did however paper Cole Sillinger to the AHL to allow him to be sent down later in the season should the need arise. He is then also eligible for the AHL Playoffs should the Monsters get in.

This offseason promises to be anything but quiet in Columbus. With holes on the roster to fill and a need to start winning soon, management will be busy figuring out what their best moves will be.

Whatever those moves are, expect them to be big.

Side Dishes

  • Lane Pederson will enter the lineup Friday for the injured Kuraly.
  • Merzlikins is now the unquestioned number one for the Blue Jackets. What does Larsen want to see from him outside of the obvious of winning and gaining consistency? “Just continuing what he has done the last several weeks. I think he’s found a rhythm to his game. I think he looks more confident to me. He looks more like himself and we’re going to need that and more here.”

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  • Kent Johnson said he likes playing with Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. “Hopefully we can stay together for the rest of the season. That would be ideal.”
  • Johnson will get his first chance to play against his University of Michigan teammate Matty Beniers: “I definitely want to beat Matty.”
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand makes his return to Nationwide Arena on Friday night. What did Larsen enjoy about Bjorkstrand in his time coaching him? “Oh great kid. He’s a man of few words. Tough to get much out of him but he’s a real quiet competitor. I really enjoyed my time coaching Oliver. He’s zero maintenance. He loves to come to the rink, loves to play, loves to be competitive and is just a great person.”
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