And we all thought the top of the draft was figured out. Oops.
Many thought that the real draft started with the fourth pick and the Edmonton Oilers. It still might. But we have a new contender in the race for when the draft really begins. According to multiple reports, the Columbus Blue Jackets could have interest in trading the third pick.
Considering the source here, we have to give some credence to it. Are the Columbus Blue Jackets really interested in dealing the third overall pick knowing who is available at that spot? And are they really not sold on Jesse Puljujarvi as the third pick?
Well, I am here to help you understand all the possibilities that could come from this.
First a word about the tendency of the Blue Jackets. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said repeatedly that the team will draft the best available player regardless of position. They haven’t strayed from this since Kekalainen took over. Expect this to continue.
Now, what can the Blue Jackets do with the pick? Of course there are three things that could happen. Either they try to trade up, trade down, or they keep the pick. Let’s look at each of these possibilities individually.
Can The Blue Jackets Trade Up?
Simply put, no matter how hard the Blue Jackets try, don’t expect them to succeed obtaining the first or second pick in the draft. With one of Puljujarvi or Patrik Laine available after the second pick, trading with the Jets doesn’t make sense. The only possibility, and that’s a very long shot, would be to trade with Toronto.
Here’s a pro tip for you. The Toronto Maple Leafs will draft Auston Matthews first overall. This is not a discussion point.
Now with that said, teams will call the Maple Leafs and make incredibly aggressive offers. The Maple Leafs will listen to these offers. Then they’ll remember why they suffered through this past season. The whole point of their “tank” was to win the right to draft Matthews. Mission accomplished.
What would the Blue Jackets even have to offer to get in the neighborhood of what Toronto would consider? The thing that came to my mind was the third pick, next year’s first rounder, and Alexander Wennberg for the top pick. That’s a steep price for the Blue Jackets, and the Leafs will still turn this deal down. Players like Matthews don’t come around often. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t expect the Blue Jackets to succeed in trading up.
Will The Blue Jackets Trade Down?
This option is a lot more realistic than trading up. Why would Columbus ever consider trading down when someone like Puljujarvi could be sitting there for them? Let’s look at the components.
First, the team would have to believe that Puljujarvi is not the answer to their problems. Granted, the team has various issues that Puljujarvi alone won’t fix. But given what the consensus thinks of him, he’s comparable to Jack Eichel. Pretty strong words considering that Puljujarvi is a winger.
It is true that Columbus needs an élite center. They traded Ryan Johansen last season. Some think that the Blue Jackets can trade down to around 7th or 8th and land one of the centers Logan Brown or Clayton Keller.
Here’s my immediate issue with this. The Blue Jackets want a center who is ready now. Brown and Keller most likely are not in the NHL next season. And it’s not if teams are willingly looking to deal a center. I don’t see anyone out there that’s available immediately that the Blue Jackets can get at center via trade. There’s a good chance their top three centers coming into the season are Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, and Wennberg.
If the Blue Jackets think Brown or Keller is the answer in future seasons, then there is a case that can be made where the Blue Jackets would look to trade down. But it still doesn’t help next season’s roster, which leads us to option three.
Keeping The Pick
If no satisfactory options come up for Columbus, the least they can do is hold the pick. If they do, which I fully expect, the only thing that they can do which makes sense is draft Puljujarvi. If they want someone else, trading down is the option. They can get other players by moving down and perhaps adding an asset along the way.
You have to wonder why the Blue Jackets wouldn’t be sold on Puljujarvi if the reports are true. Are they concerned about his recent injury? Do they believe he is overrated? Are there other red flags that came up along the way?
Told #CBJ have received at least 2 offers for No. 3 pick. Both very legit offers worth considering, but not enough to sway Kekalainen & Co.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) June 10, 2016
What I see in Puljujarvi is a dominate winger who is ready to play in the NHL next season. Even if you can’t get a center, you get someone who would go first in most other drafts.
Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to what’s out there. You have to do your due diligence. But in the end, you must take the best player available when it’s your turn, period. At third, Puljujarvi is hands down the best option available for the Blue Jackets. There will be many rumors that float around leading up to the draft. Don’t get caught up in the moment. Unless there is a can’t refuse offer for a center, the Columbus Blue Jackets will take Puljujarvi at the draft.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.