There has been a lot of talk regarding “untouchable” players in the NHL since the start of the 2022-23 season. Teams like the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks have named a single player each who falls into that category for them. The Sharks aren’t willing to trade Tomas Hertl and the Canucks are looking to hold onto Elias Pettersson. The Columbus Blue Jackets are below both of those organizations in the league standings at the moment and although it feels as if the trade deadline is still far away, it is rapidly approaching. As a result, the question comes to mind of who they should put into that category themselves. There are a couple of obvious names, however, the list isn’t nearly as long as many fans would hope. It’s also worth noting that prospects will not be listed, as we will be focusing specifically on players currently on the NHL roster.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Blue Jackets signed Johnny Gaudreau as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason and there’s no chance that they’d even consider moving him. There aren’t many players in the NHL that are better than him and he’s already committed to the organization long-term. Nothing has really changed since he signed his contract as it was pretty clear that he was walking into the latter half of a rebuild. He’s a Blue Jacket and quite frankly that won’t change.
Scoring wingers aren’t the first thing people mention when discussing the construction of a Stanley Cup-contending team, but they definitely don’t hurt. Having a young player like Patrik Laine who has already had a 44-goal season in his career is a luxury. If he can stay healthy he has the skill to have another 40-plus goal season in the future. General manager (GM) Jarmo Kekalainen had to work very hard to finalize a contract extension with his countryman, so it’s very unlikely he’d be willing to even consider dealing him any time soon. The Jackets have a strong foundation for their top-six forward core over the next half-decade and now they just need to fill it out with their younger players.
It’s also important to remember what the Blue Jackets gave up in order to get Laine. Although he certainly left Columbus on a bad note, Pierre-Luc Dubois has blossomed into a star for the Winnipeg Jets with the only question mark being how long they’ll be able to keep him in the organization.
Continuing the trend of the highest-paid players on the team being the most valuable, Zach Werenski is by far the best defenseman on the roster. Although he’s out for the remainder of the 2022-23 season due to injury, he’s a key piece of the blue line. The team’s lackluster play defensively since he went down has undoubtedly proven just how important he is despite not being a defensive powerhouse himself. He’s a cornerstone of the team and once the younger right-handed defensemen are ready for the NHL, he’ll still fit in perfectly alongside them.
Related: Blue Jackets’ Christmas Mailbag: Where Do They Go From Here?
Latest News & Highlights
When also factoring in the seemingly inevitable departure of Vladislav Gavrikov, Werenski becomes even more valuable as a veteran presence on the blue line despite his young age. He’s the face of the Blue Jackets defense for the foreseeable future and no matter what prospects like David Jiricek do, that won’t change as long as Werenski is the highest-paid defenseman on the roster.
Lastly, Kent Johnson is a key part of ending the current rebuild. He brings a level of skill that the Blue Jackets have always had difficulty finding and has the potential to be the next big star for the organization. It’s still early in his career, but so far he’s had a tremendous start to his rookie season despite being given limited ice time by head coach Brad Larsen early on. He’s exactly the type of asset you’d be looking for in any trade, so it’s pointless to move him under any realistic circumstances. He’s a versatile, highly skilled young forward who brings the exact type of game they will need once they start coming out of the rebuild. Once he’s given proper ice time consistently, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the NHL.
The Blue Jackets should be listening to offers for pretty much anyone else on their NHL roster. That includes the captain Boone Jenner and underperforming sophomore Cole Sillinger whose development may have already been hampered by overly ambitious expectations for him. Assets like Yegor Chinakhov and Kirill Marchenko are the closest outside of this list to be untouchable as it would take a jaw-dropping offer to even consider moving one of them and they certainly couldn’t afford to move both.