As expected, this season is playing out much like the last for Columbus. Expectations were low going into the year after the Blue Jackets saw the departure of top defenceman Seth Jones and top 6 forward Cam Atkinson. The Jackets’ hopes rested on their young prospects taking the next step, and while an unexpected run of success wasn’t out of the question, it certainly wasn’t the plan. Columbus has handled this down season relatively well. They sit 5th in the Metropolitan Division with an 18-20-1 record, and while they have amassed enough points to sit a playoff spot in other Divisions, the Metro is simply too strong. They are currently 18 points behind the 4th place Capitals, and 13 out of the last wildcard spot, currently held by the Boston Bruins. Barring a remarkable turnaround – or an absolute collapse by one of the teams ahead of them – Columbus is looking like they’ll be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. That certainly won’t be an issue, GM Jarmo Kekalainen was most likely planning for such a situation, and he has had a ton of success offloading expiring players and turning them into assets for the team’s partial rebuild in years past. He will have to do so again this March. Here are the most valuable trade pieces he has to work with.
A pending UFA, Domi will get his first shot at choosing his own destination when free agency opens next July. He currently makes $5.3 million, and while he’d probably like a raise, his performance will end up keeping him around that same price range. There is little reason for the Jackets to try and hang on to this player, but a contending team might be interested in the speedy, feisty centreman. Domi has 8 goals and 17 points in 29 games this season and looks like he’ll top last season’s performance in fewer games, but he has yet to develop into the surefire top 6 forward that he was drafted to be.
Drafted and developed in the Blue Jackets’ system, Gavrikov has become a steady shutdown presence on the Columbus blueline. He is a big left-handed Russian defender, and while he doesn’t score a ton, the production is still there, He currently has 2 goals and 17 points in 37 games, with 22 PIMs and a +3 rating on the season. Not bad considering he plays for a below .500 team. However, he currently slots into the lineup ahead of prospect Adam Boqvist, who is likely to steal Gavrikov’s spot in the top 4 next year. Gavrikov makes 2.8 million until the summer of 2023. There are teams in playoff contention that will value his level of two-way play, and the extra year of term before he hits UFA status will add to his trade value.
If the Jackets want to make a splash at the deadline, this is the player they’ll do it with. Where Laine’s scoring has gone is anybody’s guess. He currently has 6 goals and 15 points in 20 games. That’s not bad, but it’s a far cry from the two 30-goal seasons and one 44-goal season he put up during his time in Winnipeg. The Jackets are not a high-scoring team, and it could just come down to the players around him, but regardless Laine has not looked himself on the ice in a while. There will absolutely be interest in this player at the deadline though, especially given his RFA status next summer. Whether or not the Jackets are prepared to give up on a potentially franchise-defining player such as him is the only question that remains. He’s only 23-years old, plenty of time for Laine to return to his elite scoring ways.
This 27-year old netminder has had his fair share of difficulty making it in the NHL. Once a 62nd-overall selection by the Blue Jackets in 2012, Korpisalo had the opportunity to seize the starter’s net when Sergei Bobrovsky departed for Florida. Instead, it was Elvis Merzlikins who stepped up and eventually got signed to a long-term extension. This left Korpisalo in the lurch, heading towards UFA status and making $2.8 million until he gets there. Then there’s the emergence of Daniil Tarasov, who came up and played in his first four NHL games this season. While he lost both starts he received, he finished with a 2.40 GAA and a .937sv%. Those numbers are good enough to suggest he’ll be making the jump into the backup position for the Blue Jackets next season, which means Korpisalo will be hitting the free-agent market. Trade talks have picked up this season regarding Korpisalo, with several teams expressing interest. If the Jackets can get a decent return for him, expect the big Finn to be donning a new logo before the season ends.
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