The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a brutal situation.
They are in the midst of their worst start in franchise history. They recently fired their winningest coach in franchise history. They haven’t won a game yet. In fact, they haven’t even gained a point in eight tries. Every other team in the league has at least gained points in two of their games. The beginning of this season couldn’t have started much worse.
As a result, even though it’s only October, trade talks involving the Blue Jackets, are widespread. Reports surfaced that the team would make a trade first to shake things up before firing former coach Todd Richards. Given the market, Jarmo Kekalainen and company couldn’t get a deal done, primarily because of the asking price. The team then had no choice but to fire Richards.
Now that John Tortorella is in, it doesn’t mean that the trade talks have died down. If anything, they’ve increased. Kekalainen is on record as saying that they are always looking to improve. They need defensive help. They know it. They are looking hard to try to make something happen to turn their season around.
With all that said, we thought we’d take a look at the current Blue Jackets roster, both at the NHL and AHL level, to see who in our estimation is “untouchable”. In other words, which players will make Kekalainen say the word “click” if you try to bring them up in a trade offer.
Couple of things to note here. First, I don’t consider anybody really “untouchable”. Hypothetically speaking, if the Oilers offer Connor McDavid (it will never happen), your most untouchable player suddenly becomes available. In other words, if there’s an offer that blows you away, then you take it.
Second, we are defining “untouchable” here as a player on the team who is part of their long-term plan whose chances of trade are lowest. Honestly, this list is small for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
At this point, I see four players on the NHL roster, and two on the AHL roster, that fit the criteria of “untouchable”. That leaves a lot of open possibilities. Here is our current “untouchables” list. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.
Brutal of a game as Columbus has had as a whole, you can really see what a special player Ryan Johansen is…
— Mike Ashmore (@mashmore98) October 11, 2015
Don’t even worry about Johansen’s benching Thursday night. That was more to motivate him given his recent performance. The team still sees him as a true number one center in this league, and you know how hard those are to find. He’s only 23. He hasn’t scratched the surface of just how good he is. Johansen isn’t going anywhere.
One could make the case that he’s been one of the best players on the Blue Jackets to start the season. He’s out in all situations, especially when the team needs a big play. He thinks the game on a different level, usually one to two plays ahead. For someone as young as Wennberg, just 21, that’s really impressive. Tortorella even had him play big minutes Thursday in Minnesota looking for the tying goal. Wennberg in our estimation has earned “untouchable” status.
Although he hasn’t had a great start to this season, Murray is still viewed as an eventual number one defenseman. When right, he makes the game look easy. I think he’s trying to get back to his old form. He’s missed a bunch of games. I didn’t expect him to perform as a number one right away. As he continues to show that he is over his injuries, things will fall into place for Murray. The Blue Jackets hope to build around him in the future.
Like Murray, Savard has had an average start to the season. That’s pretty good if you consider the team’s record. Savard had a nice breakout season in 2014-2015. He got rewarded with a new contract as a result. Management is on record as declaring both Murray and Savard “untouchable”. I can’t see why that would change so soon. I don’t think Savard gets a five-year contract otherwise. The team is expecting big things from him. As long as the team finally gets going, Savard will too. He’s part of the plan in Columbus.
I would also consider Sergei Bobrovsky as likely “untouchable”. It’s no secret that his play has been awful to start the season. Clearly the team believes in him, given that they made him the second highest paid goalie in the league. I do however think he is a peg down from the names listed above. If someone were to make an offer, I believe they’d listen. He isn’t as “untouchable” as you’d think. But who would want that contract?
That’s it. All other current Blue Jackets players on the NHL roster are in play if the right deal happens. Yep, Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, even Brandon Saad aren’t as “untouchable” as you might think. Think of it as a pecking order of sorts. If you are considering making a major deal, who would you exclude? Yes, if forced, I’d trade Foligno before I’d trade Johansen. Foligno is more easily replaced than Johansen is, given how hard number one centers are to find.
On the AHL roster, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano aren’t going anywhere. All others, including Kerby Rychel, are in play.
What’s next? We’ll see. Potential deals are always talked about. If the Blue Jackets find the right deal, they’ll make it. With few “untouchables”, we could see some surprises. Strap yourselves in. This could be a bumpy ride for everyone.
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 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.