Although the Blue Jackets have been one of the bigger surprises around the league this season, they don’t plan on making any significant additions to their roster between now and the March 1st trade deadline, GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. Kekalainen suggested that their window for success isn’t closing this year so the timing to make more of an all-in move isn’t now:
“Our window is not closing in 2017, it’s just starting to crack open. I don’t see any reason to go crazy because we have a crack open in our window. We’re trying to widen it by making wise, long-term decisions, and get better from within.”
Instead of looking towards a bigger name, Columbus is likely to look to add some depth players by the deadline. Kekalainen also hinted that any additions are probably going to be pending unrestricted free agents as a result of the upcoming Golden Knights expansion draft in June:
“The price (in trade) is not only what you give up right now to get the player, but also the risk you now have to take by having to expose another player. It’s not a normal year.”
Portzline suggests a trio of pending UFAs that would make sense for Columbus in centers Brian Boyle (Tampa Bay) and Martin Hanzal (Arizona) as well as right winger Radim Vrbata (Arizona) as players that would make sense to add. However, Arizona’s asking prices are known to be extremely high while it has been suggested that Boyle may be able to fetch a first round pick which might be too rich for the Blue Jackets.
In our deadline primer for the team, we highlighted center depth in particular as an area that they may want to address by the deadline. They have Boone Jenner playing on the wing which gives them an extra option down the middle but they’re lacking in NHL-ready centers with their AHL affiliate in Cleveland. We also suggested adding a veteran goalie to the fold with both Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg battling inconsistency in their NHL outings this season.
Regardless of who they look to add, the Jackets shouldn’t have to worry about the cap as they currently can add a player making nearly $6.3MM as a full-season cap hit per CapFriendly, an amount that would jump to over $8MM by deadline day. Accordingly, they could look to some of the more expensive rentals in terms of their cap hit that not as many teams will be able to afford which should give them plenty of options to consider in the days ahead.