Trade deadline fast approaching for Blue Jackets
The NHL All-Star Game has come and gone, with the end of the season fast approaching. The NHL trade deadline is less than three weeks away on March 2 at 3 p.m. Every year at this point of the season, the question is asked about which teams are "buying" and "selling."
The Blue Jackets play 10 games in the 20 days remaining before the deadline. As of Wednesday morning, they remain 14 points behind the Boston Bruins for eighth place in the conference and second wild card spot. Their chances of making the playoffs at this point are 0.3 percent, according to sportsclubstats.com's website.
One would have to think that Columbus will be sellers leading up to 3 p.m. on March 2. Early in the season when the injury swoon was in full-swing, no major moves were made by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the front office. The message was clear that the winning attitude of changing the course the team was on would have to come from the players already in the room.
They just haven't been able to find that extra gear, save for the 10-1-1 run in December, to make up ground in a much better Metropolitan Division. The reality of them making the playoffs is that they would have to duplicate the December run - twice over. And even then, there is no guarantee of securing a place at the postseason dance.
Unlike the train wrecks that both the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers have become this season, the Blue Jackets do not need blown up. You can only wonder where this team would be if they had not accumulated 332 man games lost due to injury after 52 games. They've taken care of business on the road this year, going 12-12-1. It's at home where they have faltered, posting just an 11-14-2 record within the friendly confines.
The Blue Jackets have lost defenseman Ryan Murray to a high ankle sprain (out 4-6 weeks), although it would appear likely that both James Wisniewski and Dalton Prout may return to the lineup this weekend against either the Philadelphia Flyers (Friday) or the New York Islanders (Saturday).
As long as they don't lose another player on the blue line, defenseman Jordan Leopold would likely be traded to a team that needs some veteran defensive help going into the playoffs.
On the forward side of things, right wing Cam Atkinson would seem to be the target of the cap-strapped Boston Bruins. He's a pending restricted free agent this summer with a modest $1.15 million cap hit. He posted a career year last season, going 21-19-40 in 79 games. Through 48 games this season, he's 11-10-21.
The Bruins have need for a goal-scoring winger that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and Atkinson fits the bill. If a deal is struck, it would be a homecoming, of sorts, for Atkinson. He's from Riverside, Connecticut and played three years of college hockey with the Boston College Eagles.
While both clubs may be talking, nothing appears to be imminent. Columbus does not have to trade Atkinson, and as Kekalainen has always said, they will only make a deal that makes the team better.
Don't expect the Blue Jackets to make a big splash on the trade market next month. What many teams might want, the Blue Jackets will not trade away. The future of the team is coming slowly into focus. Remember, it's only been two years since Kekalainen took over as general manager and a little over two years since John Davidson was hired as the president of hockey operations.
Call it what you will, but the team is in the middle of retooling/rebuilding themselves, the likes of which have never really happened in Columbus. This does not happen overnight, as much as most would want to see it happen that way. It takes time to build a perennial playoff contending team.
They are not there yet. But they're getting closer with each passing season.