Blue Jackets stay the course at trade deadline

Two days before the trade deadline, the attacking Blue Jackets Gustave Nyquist He was asked if he knows what to expect as the NHL approaches the annual wheel and traffic show.

“I’ve said it a million times before, I really like it here and I would really like to be part of this organization moving forward here,” the assistant captain said. “I think we’re building something really good.”

Ultimately, Nyquist foreshadowed what turned out to be a relatively calm deadline for the Blue Jackets. Rather than making major changes, Columbus was part of a single move, sending UFA into the making Max Domi in Carolina and a 2022 sixth-round pick in Florida as as part of a three-team deal who landed the prospect of Jackets defenseman Aidan Hreschuk.

In the end, that chemistry the Blue Jackets built while surprising nearly every pundit to cling on to the playoff chase in a reset season proved enough to keep the core of the team together. together.

Video: Trade Deadline Presser + Analysis

That was usually the plan all along for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and his team, but a strong season that includes a 32-28-3 record at this point has proven more than enough to keep the train going. .

“We know the reset means we’ll have to be a bit patient and grow with this group,” Kekalainen said. “Our best days are ahead, there’s no doubt about that, but I think everyone in our room believes in what we’re doing right now and believes in our plan and they want to be part of it. So that’s the big thing about our band right now.

“We started with Zach Werensky sign here and Boone Jenner and Olivier Bjorkstrand and some of these guys who are the cornerstones of our team right now in the leadership group. And hearing what Gus Nyquist, for example, said before the deadline, that’s great stuff. The guys want to be here. They want to be part of it and they are proud to be Blue Jackets. »

Kekalainen said the Blue Jackets wish Domi the best after 107 games with the team over a season and a half. Acquired from Montreal in the 2020 draft in exchange for Josh Anderson, Domi immediately signed a two-year contract but struggled to find his place a year ago, finishing with a 9-15-24 season in 54 games and moving from center to wing when his turn at center just didn’t work out under former coach John Tortorella.

Things have gone much smoother this season – apart from a few absences due to injuries and COVID protocols – as Domi has found a home on the wing, playing 53 games and posting a 9-23-32 line.

But with his contract due to expire after the campaign and the Blue Jackets likely adding at least two young wingers per season from now on in draft picks Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko, there was an obvious impetus to understand Domi’s situation, and he will join a team that has the potential to win the Stanley Cup in Carolina.

Hreschuk, meanwhile, is a 19-year-old left-handed defenseman from Long Beach, Calif., and spent this season as a freshman at Boston College, where he went 1-7-8 and had a plus/minus differential. -9 in 37 games. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound defenseman was a member of the U.S. national team’s development program before that and was picked in the third round of last summer’s draft by the Canes.

“Hreschuk is a smooth-skating left-handed defenseman who can play up and down the depth chart,” says the Draft Prospects Hockey Handbook for the 2021 Draft. play the first minutes of the line as an offensive defender or play a controller role. … Has useful tools to become a top four two-way defender.”

Before the deadline, there was speculation that two other future UFAs in defense Dean Kukan and guardian Joonas Korpisalo could also be on the move, but the pair remained Blue Jackets after the deadline.

Korpisalo has struggled with a combination of bad luck, injuries and inefficiency at times this year, but the Finnish goaltender drafted by the Blue Jackets in 2012 now looks set to finish the season with the Blue Jackets. Part of the reason could be the upper body injury that caused Elvis Merzlikins to exit Saturday’s game and led Korpisalo to his first win since Jan. 30, as Merzlikins didn’t practice Monday and looks unlikely to play in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

“It’s a combination of a lot of different things,” Kekalainen said of Korpisalo’s hold. “Obviously we need two capable goalies here at all times. Elvis is injured right now and he’s out for a little while, and we have (Jean-François) Bérubé here and Korpisalo. We should be in good hands and have two healthy goalkeepers for tomorrow’s game, and we’ll see where it goes after that.”

Kekalainen didn’t speculate too much about his conversations with other GMs, but noted that while the team has cap space, he hasn’t received an attractive offer for the team to work. as a third party broker to enter into other agreements. to work. He also didn’t say if any teams had asked about CBJ veterans like Nyquist, Patrick Laine and Jack Roslovicalso noting that no moves would have allowed the Jackets to add a player at this time.

“Any further additions to other parts of the team are probably off-season moves,” Kekalainen said. “We thought there might be an outside chance to do a deal that could benefit us this year but also in the future, but they just weren’t available at the moment. Which we thought was the case. .”

In the end, only one trade was made, and Kekalainen felt nothing too unexpected happened as the Jackets continued the reset plan started at last year’s deadline. The focus now will be on assessing UFA’s next class and thinking about what the team can do this offseason to improve after what has been a major growth season so far.

“There are a lot of players who were traded at the deadline, you pretty much know they won’t be able to continue with this team next year due to their ceiling situation,” Kekalainen said. “So you know these are rentals, so we’re going to focus on watching these guys, evaluating them and seeing who comes to the UFA market next summer and who might be a good fit for us.

“And we will continue to analyze the depth charts with the other teams to see if there are any trading opportunities with the mix we have and a match with what they might need from us and what we could use from. them.”

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