The draft really starts with the third overall pick.
Currently, the Arizona Coyotes own that pick. Thursday brought us various reports of teams making firm offers to obtain the third pick. The belief is that the Columbus Blue Jackets are at the top of this list.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen would not go into specifics when asked about talks with the Coyotes. He did acknowledge however that the team has talked to every team above them on the draft board, in the hopes of moving up.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) June 25, 2015
Given the current state of the defense, trading up to land a big-name defenseman makes sense. The general belief is that the Blue Jackets will draft Noah Hanifin if they trade up.
Given the amount of assets the team has, they have a unique and exciting opportunity in front of them. They have the chance to come away from the draft with a blue line set for the next 10 years.
Their desire to acquire the third pick is the first part. Hanifin is thought of as the best defenseman available in the draft. Some, including ESPN’s John Buccigross, think Hanifin will win multiple Norris trophies. If Hanifin plays to this potential, then acquiring the third pick is of the utmost importance.
People (like Columbus) love Noah Hanifin. He's a 1-2 DMan horse. They will give up A LOT to get him. https://t.co/KVMulIy60p
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) June 25, 2015
Next, consider the Boston Bruins situation with Dougie Hamilton. According to CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty, talks between Hamilton and the Bruins haven’t made much progress. The two sides expect to meet in Florida during the draft. While this is happening, teams could present offer sheets. According to Haggerty, the Blue Jackets are interested in Hamilton, and the possibility exists that an offer sheet will be presented.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney is on record as saying they would match any offer sheet, up to $7 million per season. Given that the Blue Jackets have the cap room, they must present an offer sheet, even if it means overpaying. The potential here is too great to not at least try. Landing Hamilton would solidify a blue line in desperate need of a top pairing defenseman.
Potentially adding Hanifin and Hamilton to a core of Ryan Murray, David Savard, and Jack Johnson would drastically change the perception of the Blue Jackets defense. Opportunities like this don’t come around everyday. Even if they don’t land all of the pieces here, the team must try to make this happen. They would become an instant contender in the Eastern Conference.
If this doesn’t work out, there are other ways to improve the defense. If the team keeps the eighth pick, they will likely select one of Ivan Provorov or Zach Werenski; each of which are great defensemen in their own right. As long as the Blue Jackets get one of the three best defensemen, that will be considered a win for them on Friday.
Kekalainen will be aggressive, but won’t go out of control at the draft. If the cost is too high to acquire the third pick, they will explore other options. The Blue Jackets are a team that will have a lot of buzz all the way until the start of the draft. They have assets and are open for business. The opportunity in front of them is once-in-a-lifetime. If everything falls the right way, you could be looking at the beginning of the next great franchise. They say you only live once. Let’s hope they go for it all starting Friday night.
I’m a fully credentialed writer that covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Monsters and the OHL. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.