It’s time to be realistic and focus on the present. The Blue Jackets are in another dilemma with another star with another expansion draft looming ahead.
The Blue Jackets retained the fifth overall selection for the upcoming draft, with two other first round picks to follow later this summer.
Patrick Laine is on an expiring deal with little update on the contract for the exception of not willing to talk about his season performance to any media, including his home country in Finland. Laine came with Jack Roslovic in the season opening blockbuster for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 3rd round draft selection in 2022. Roslovic expires at the end of next season will have arbitration rights as leverage.
Seth Jones has come out and publicly stated that he will not renew a contract and test the free agent market for the first time in his career. This situation is entirely different from the Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky all in 2019 playoff run where the management bought in and pushed the team to the second round of the playoffs. After the previous season and the announcement being known, the club and Jones could find a way to recuperate assets lost and help Jones contend for the Stanley Cup in his prime.
Jones, 26, was the 4th overall selection in the 2013 Draft from the Nashville Predators, was dealt to Columbus for Ryan Johansen several years ago in a one for one blockbuster. Jones’ final season has a cap hit of $5.4M. At a 50% retention, that could become $2.7M at the right price and $1.35M if a second team retains the extra 50% for a potential top two defenseman.
Rumored teams to be interested in Jones’ services according to sources include the Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Blackhawks. The speculated price for his services by the organization is two first round draft picks or a first and a potential number one center. The biggest cog in their franchise the lack of a number one ice man that wins face offs dishes pucks and pots them in. Dubois and Johansen were the last two, and with these speculated teams, who makes sense?
Colorado Avalanche. Jones was born in Denver and met Joe Sakic in his youth while his father was a former NBA player with the Nuggets in the organization. After the tough round one performance of C Nazem Kadri, he may be salary that may be looked at moved at an affordable salary of $4.9M, courtsey of Islanders GM Lou Lamerillo. RD Erik Johnson waived his no-movement clause to be moved to the Seattle Kraken, but his veteran expereince and St. Louis connections may help the former Blues representatives look at his services on the right side. Other more popular youthful options that could be desired by Columbus could be C Tyson Jost, RW Martin Kaut, C Alex Newhook, or LD Bowem Byram with their first round draft picks.
Philadelphia Flyers. Father Popeye Jones is an assistant coach for the first place Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and this could give the team a much needed boost after a disappointing 2021 regular season. The intrigue could involve Jones being LD Ivan Provorov's line-mate in Philadelphia, much like he was with Zach Werenski during his time in Columbus. Philadelphia has cap room after moving on from Michael Raffl and Erik Gustaffson at the trade deadline, and have propsects in the pipeline including C Tyson Forrester, C German Rubtsov, C Morgan Frost, LW Joel Farabbe, and NHL players in RW Travis Konecny and LD Shayne Ghostisbehere, along with first round picks.
Toronto Maple Leafs. Whispers of the past and Mitch Marner have been coming back to the surface after the previous attempt to offer sheet the star winger in Toronto. Murmurs have also been discussed about the frustration of LD Morgan Rielly in regards to the acceleration in LD Rasmus Sandin's ice time during the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. Other prospects in Toronto that may appeal are C Fillip Hallander, C Nick Robertson, and RD Timmothy Ligjren, along with their first round pick in 2022.
Calgary Flames. The desperate need for change is apparent in Alberta, and the noise a potential Norris defenseman could bring may bring the Flames to playoff contention in their ever-changing squad. If they want him, C Sean Monahan must be involved for progression in the deal to fulfill the center need in Columbus. The thought additionally of Monahan and Laine as a duo could provide two way movement and offense in a puck mover like him to the Finnish scorer. Other youthful assets that could help the deal are C Connor Zary, LD Oliver Kylington, or LD Jusso Valimaki, with their first round draft picks.
Los Angeles Kings. The team announced they are in search of offensive help, including top 6 support to bring California the state's first cup since 2014, when LA last won the Stanley Cup. Blake's development of the team has brought the Kings the stronger prospect pool in the entire NHL, and it could help bring the Kings RD Seth Jones, or other stars like RW Patrik Laine or C Jack Eichel. Prospects that could be used are C Quinton Byfield, C Alex Turrcotte, C Gabe Vilardi, LD Tobias Bjornfort, or RD Sean Durzi. They may not need to give up a draft pick depending on the quality of prospect involved.
Chicago Blackhawks. This is according to insiders Nick Kyperos and Doug McClean of the Line Movement. On the Real Kyper Show at Noon, Doug and Kyper mentioned the interest in Chicago in Jones and in Detroit in Werenski. For Chicago, a team that announced they will be rebuilding, the team has C Dylan Strome and C/RW Alex DeBricant, along with defensive prospects in RD Adam Boqvist and LD Nicolas Beaudin. The Blackhawks may have to use more picks than the other teams to add a quality star on the backend as the strength on the Hawks is diminishing.
Max Domi has undergone offseason surgery to recover from a labral tear, and is expected to be off the ice for 5-6 months. This surgery means he will miss the first month or so of the 2021-2022 regular season. Domi is in the final year of his contract with Columbus, that will earn him $6M dollars in cash, but a cap hit of $5.3M. In his first season with Columbus, he has scored 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games played this season. Domi came from Montreal in the 2020 offseason on draft day with a 2020 3rd round pick (LD Samuel Knazko) for RW Josh Anderson.
Speaking of Knazko, it was announced today (June 9, 2021) that the Blue Jackets have signed the Slovakian defender to a three-year entry-level contract with the team. Knazko scored 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 23 games played in LIGA this season. Knazko had one point in 8 games for Slovakia in the World Junior Championships, and was pointless in the World Championships this year. Knazko is showing already in his development he can play long stretches of ice time, including points in both playoff games in LIGA. That is almost four different types of season for the 18 year old kid to play in, between a full season against men, then to kids his age, then to the playoffs, and then to play active NHL players all in the same year, shows progression and value in him, even as the throw in pick in the Anderson deal.
Speaking of the 2020 draft, the recently signed Yegor Chinakov was named the KHL Rookie of the Year in 2021. Chinakov was the surprise of the first day of the NHL Entry Draft, when Columbus selected him with the 21st overall selection. Chinakov had 17 points in 32 KHL games; 1 goal in 5 World Junior games; and pointless in 3 World Championship games this year. Columbus has shown that in their selection of the draft to go for kids playing men, and that accelerates their development and track into the NHL to play against tougher and older competition.
Finally, Elliotte Firedman of Sportsnet reported that the Columbus Blue Jackets were close to a trade at the 2021 Trade Deadline that would involve G Elvis Merzlikins to the Buffalo Sabres for C Sam Reinhart. Reinhart was the second overall selection in the 2014 draft, and with Buffalo players' values continuing to fall to rock bottom, this move would have given Columbus the need at center to also fulfill both goalies' needs for starter positions in the NHL and give G Jonas Korpisalo full time minutes in between the pipes at a cheaper cost than Merzi's $4M salary.
What are your thoughts on Columbus? More to come...