As the Columbus Blue Jackets continue through their rebuild this offseason and stack up on young talent, they must also move on from players who either haven’t lived up to expectations or no longer fit with the organization’s needs. Over the past few seasons, management has shown they’re not afraid to move on from fan favorites when presented with an offer that benefits the future of the team. General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen has a few clear-cut trade pieces to work with, but there are also a couple of under-the-radar players who could logically be moved, including Emil Bemstrom and Liam Foudy. Here’s a look.
Bemstrom has had a difficult time earning significant ice time under head coach Brad Larsen despite his talent, especially offensively. It hasn’t been due to a lack of effort either, since he’s been getting somewhat regular ice time when healthy.
This season, he spent quite a bit of time on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Eric Robinson, but that type of line isn’t ideal for the 23-year-old. Bemstrom’s play fits a top-six role, and as a result, he hasn’t been able to get much going. Having a player his age playing less than ten minutes a night is not ideal for his development, either. He was given some time in the top-six later in the season, and although he didn’t perform as well as expected, his play was certainly better.
Bemstrom has the potential to be an effective player at the NHL level. However, similar to former Blue Jackets prospect Sonny Milano, sometimes a team and player simply aren’t the right fit. Bemstrom would be a benefit to teams with the right system in place to maximize his strengths, specifically his shot. Unfortunately, with Patrik Laine, Boone Jenner, and Oliver Bjorkstrand ahead of him on the depth chart as highly skilled goal-scorers, not to mention Yegor Chinakhov, who will certainly continue to move up the lineup, there isn’t much need for a player like Bemstrom.
Liam Foudy may only be 22 years old, but it has now been four years since he was drafted into the organization and every passing season makes it seem like he’s no longer in Kekalainen’s long-term plans. During the 2021-22 season, despite an abundance of injuries, he only played a single game in Columbus and wasn’t high on the shortlist to be recalled. With that being said, Foudy was dealing with an injury in the latter half of the season when he likely would’ve seen more game time with the Blue Jackets.
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The biggest issue that Foudy faces with getting regular time at the NHL level is his low position on the depth chart after new players have overtaken him. In the past 12 months, the additions of Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, and Kuraly have strengthened the center position for the foreseeable future. That’s not to mention Jenner and Jack Roslovic, who were already on the roster, making for very few opportunities for Foudy to break onto the team. As a result, now would be the ideal time to move him before his value drops significantly as he gets older. With the right trading partner, the former first-round pick should get a decent return at this point in his development.
Both of these players can make an impact on the right team. However, it seems more and more likely that the right team is not the Blue Jackets. As Kekalainen looks to move the team out of a rebuild, he has to focus on maximizing value on every asset, which is typically one of his strengths. However, he has made a mistake in the past by trading the aforementioned Milano for essentially no value, and he cannot afford to make it again with Foudy and Bemstrom.