NHL Column: All in or as is?


Columbus Blue Jackets’ Anthony Duclair, right, tries to stop New York Islanders’ Scott Mayfield from shooting during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Pencils down. The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline officially hit at 3 p.m. on Monday, ending the movement of players between teams. This year’s deadline saw some big names find new sweaters, and teams making statements that they are all in for a playoff run. Meanwhile, others stood pat, restraining from sacrificing future assets for short-lived success.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made the biggest noise this trade season, popping up in notification after notification in the days leading up to the deadline. They relinquished a slew of future talent, shipping out Forward Anthony Duclair, two conditional first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick and a seventh-round pick. All of these selections were scattered over the next four entry drafts. The first round picks are from the next two drafts, in 2019 and 2020.

That’s a hefty price to pay, especially for a team that is sitting on the playoff bubble. They have fully depleted their drafting capacity for the next few seasons. In return for the haul, they received center Matt Duchene, forward Ryan Dzingel, defenseman Adam McQuaid, goaltender Keith Kinkaid and a 2019 seventh-round pick.

Duchene and Dzingel especially deepen the forward corps for Columbus, who now believe they have enough elite talent to contend for a deep playoff run. Nonetheless, the commitment the organization has put into the rest of this season borders on a fine line between risky and reckless.

Not only did they sell off tons of draft picks, but they also retained star winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Russian stars are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and most likely, the Blue Jackets will not re-sign them. Both players have shown that they intend to test the market.

Duchene and Dzingel are also both unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Although the team will have the opportunity to extend them, they may choose to see what else is available too.

Columbus’ deadline strategy is rather jaw-dropping, knowing that they have everything to lose. The team currently sits a point out of a playoff spot, with a game at hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who currently hold the final seed. It is one thing to take so many chances when a team appears primed for a cup run. But for a bubble team like Columbus to make such moves is nerve-wracking.

Even if the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, which they probably will based on the talent they acquired, the likelihood of them going on a run seems low. If they were to make it as the second wild-card, they would have to play the mighty Tampa Bay Lighting, who are the far and away favorites to win it all.

Regardless of who they play, a first-round exit could certainly happen, as this squad still needs to prove they can compete with the best teams in the league over a seven game series. Imagine, they threw away a majority of their future assets, all to head home after one round.

General Manager, Jarmo Kekäläinen, is acting like he is sitting on his couch playing GM Mode in NHL 19. While the moves he made could prove to be reckless, it could turn out that the acquisitions provide the perfect boost for them to make a run.

For fans, his efforts to make the team better may be admirable, as Kekäläinen has given them a legitimate chance to contend. Being that they may only have Panarin and Bobrovsky for a few more months, they might as well take advantage. Blue Jackets fans are itching for the team to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They feel like it is now or never. But if they make nothing of the newly shining roster this year, then they could struggle for years to come.

Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu.

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