The Columbus Blue Jackets could use some good news in light of recent developments with their best players. A quick review of the status of the rest of their franchise should provide you with the comfort you’re looking for.
Sometimes a different perspective is needed when it comes to viewing a painful situation. Let’s be honest here. The Artemi Panarin/Sergei Bobrovsky situations are painful for all those involved. Whether you’re a member of management or a passionate fan, how could you not be frustrated that your two best players don’t seem to want to be there?
Just when you think things for the Blue Jackets are finally starting to look up, this happens. Ugh. Is the madness ever going to end?
The good news here is that the madness is ending no matter what happens with Panarin and Bobrovsky. All you have to do is look at who is here and who will be here and you’ll see a much brighter picture.
This Franchise Is In Good Shape
Let’s evaluate the franchise in key areas. But let’s do that under one condition. Let’s imagine that both Panarin and Bobrovsky are gone. In most situations, that will cripple a team.
But thanks to Jarmo Kekalainen and crew, losing them will hurt but it won’t cripple them. While there are areas of the team that need help and improvement, look at some of the key positions and we’ll see the good stuff.
Seth Jones is here. His upside is that of a Norris winner and is on the short list for future captain of the team. Zach Werenski is developing into a two-way threat with continued defensive improvement. Most teams dream to have one defenseman of their caliber. These Blue Jackets have two. Once Werenski gets a new deal, these two stay together regardless of how this month’s drama plays out.
David Savard, Markus Nutivaara and Ryan Murray make a formidable 3-5 defensemen. The situation on the blue line is strong and will remain so. So long as they continue to bring in prospects throughout the organization, things will continue to thrive in this regard.
Cam Atkinson is a rising star league wide. He has committed to Central Ohio. Pierre-Luc Dubois is 20 years old and will only get better. Josh Anderson is showing flashes and has much more to give. Boone Jenner has found his stride and like Jones, is on the short list of possible captains later on down the line.
There are pieces to build around. While potentially losing Panarin is a blow no matter how you slice it, it opens up other opportunities you might not immediately think of.
Remember Sonny Milano? He’s not Panarin but he does have offense and could find himself in a future role on the top-six as a result. Vitaly Abramov is in the AHL learning the pro game and could eventually make an impact on the wing.
Even later, Liam Foudy and Kirill Marchenko are interesting. The team has done a nice job of getting good prospects in place to make an impact down the road.
But there’s one more thing we must discuss here. That’s the salary cap. If you don’t spend $20 million on Panarin and Bobrovsky, you’ve got some cash you could spend. There’s your unexpected options. With the cap space, they have the flexibility to decide how they want to improve their team. You don’t realize how big an asset cap flexibility is until you have an abundance of it. Oh the possibilities. You can take advantage of some situations thanks to others being in cap hell.
Again, this is not a crippling situation. It could be much worse.
This is something not nearly getting enough attention. While losing Bobrovsky hurts, there is an abundance of depth in the organization thanks to some shrewd decision making.
While J-F Berube and Matiss Kivlenieks are holding down the fort in Cleveland, it’s three other prospects that are generating buzz.
Elvis Merzlikins is ready to come to North America next season and could be your opening night starter depending on what happens with Joonas Korpisalo. Merzlikins has excelled on the big stage and in Switzerland. He also has a certain flair that fans will really enjoy.
Veini Vehvilainen is tearing it up in Finland with a 1.42 goals against and .940 save percentage in 30 games for Karpat in Liiga. He was the Blue Jackets’ sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft. He becomes an interesting option if he continues to play like this.
After not playing for a year due to injury, Daniil Tarasov is providing some early returns for the Blue Jackets. Tarasov has a 1.65 and a .931 in 21 games in Russia’s VHL. He also appeared for Team Russia at this past World Juniors.
If even one of these pan out, it’s a job well done. Yet all three could prove they have NHL futures. Depth and competition are what the Blue Jackets are looking for and they have that in spades with their goaltending.
Relax, Smile, and Keep Proper Perspective
The window for the Columbus Blue Jackets is just beginning to open. As one of the youngest teams in the league, that window is just beginning to crack open. Teams like the Capitals and Penguins have their window open but are slowly seeing it start to close. Ovechkin, Crosby, Backstrom and Malkin aren’t getting any younger. They can win the Cup this season but they’re clearly on the back-nine while the Blue Jackets are on the first tee with a driver.
So while losing Panarin and Bobrovsky will hurt, life will go on and the Columbus Blue Jackets still have many reasons to hold their heads up.
If Panarin chooses to leave or gets traded, he’s leaving a great situation with a young team on the rise. Management will find a way to make up for this loss if it happens.
So smile and relax a little. It may hurt for a bit. But in due time, we’ll all see just how good off these Blue Jackets are. Thanks to the depth and possible added flexibility, they’re really good off.
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.