5 Realistic Targets at the Trade Deadline for the Columbus Blue Jackets
The first priority for the Columbus Blue Jackets ahead of the 2014 trade deadline is to determine whether they’re buyers or sellers. One point out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Columbus is far from guaranteed to make the playoffs.
However, after just barely missing them in 2013, the Blue Jackets are one team that’s easy to believe is on the upswing. Armed with over $3 million in cap space at the deadline, they may very well be one key piece away from reaching the postseason—and, then…who knows?
Taking into account players’ cap hits, how good of a fit they would be in Columbus and the likelihood of their availability, here are the five most realistic trade targets at the deadline for the Blue Jackets:
All cap figures taken from capgeek.com.
5. Ryan Callahan – RW (New York Rangers)
Callahan is incredibly versatile and can fit on almost any line and both special teams. The fact that the two teams have partnered up for two significant deals (Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik being the main pieces in each) over the last two seasons only adds fuel to the fire.
Of course, as each of those trades have proven, just because the two teams can trade, doesn’t mean that they should.
After scoring 42 points in 44 games in 2013 with the Rangers, Nash is at risk of posting his lowest points total since his rookie year (39) this season. By the same token, Gaborik has been a bust almost since the get-go with just 31 points in 53 total games in Columbus.
Callahan, meanwhile, doesn’t have nearly as much upside as either one.
A right-winger, Callahan would only really fit on the side at which Columbus is the deepest (both Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton are natural right-wingers). And, seeing as he will be an unrestricted free agent and is reportedly seeking a $7 million per year, according to ESPN’s Katie Strang, it would be unlikely that Columbus would be able to keep him past this season.
And, with him having recently surfaced in trade rumors for perennial top 10 scorer Martin St. Louis, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, it’s also becoming increasingly unlikely Columbus would even be able to afford him.
4. Andrew MacDonald – D (New York Islanders)
With defenseman Fedor Tyutin out for the next few weeks with an ankle injury, the Blue Jackets may come to realize just how badly they need to add depth to their razor-thin blue line.
No, the few weeks the underrated Tyutin will be out won’t make or break Columbus’ season. However, having allowed 30.8 shots per game entering the Olympic break, finishing the last month of the season without improving their defense likely will.
Enter New York Islander Andrew MacDonald: a serviceable top-four defenseman on any team, who can play in all situations…and pretty much has if his 1,533:33 in ice time this year (fifth-highest in the league) is anything to go by.
His current, cap-friendly $575,000 salary would be easy for Columbus to take on, allowing them to add experience to a defensive corps that boasts three regulars 23 years of age or younger, and not a single one over 30.
Granted, MacDonald is just 27, himself, but he’s been a mainstay on the Islanders’ blue line for the last five years…which in normal, non-New York Islander years is probably more like 10.
3. Ray Whitney – LW (Dallas Stars)
Current-Dallas Star Ray Whitney once scored 76 points as a Columbus Blue Jacket back in 2002-03. While he is now on the verge of turning 42, it might actually be worthwhile trying to turn back the clock this trade deadline instead of moving it forward for daylight savings time.
Whitney would provide much needed depth up front on the left side, where Nick Foligno is currently listed as the best option according to the team’s official depth chart. That doesn’t exactly paint the prettiest picture of the guys directly below him.
Granted, Columbus is blessed with a handful of other players versatile enough to move over to the left side. However, when other top options include center Brandon Dubinsky and right-winger R.J. Umberger, it points to a general lack of game-breaking talent.
Maybe Whitney is no longer that guy, but he is just one year removed from a point-per-game season. And the Blue Jackets could do much worse from a leadership standpoint—especially seeing as they have no actual captain.
In the final year of his current two-year deal, Whitney could theoretically be available despite his no-movement clause. Assuming the Western wild-card Dallas Stars fall and the Blue Jackets rise from here until the trade deadline, Whitney may well be an option worth inquiring about.
2. Ales Hemsky – LW (Edmonton Oilers)
At 30, Alex Hemsky is the odd man out in terms of age in the Edmonton Oilers’ group of top-six forwards, with the next-oldest being 25-year-old David Perron. In truth, Hemsky may very well end up being the odd man out of Edmonton altogether.
Rumors continue to swirl around Sam Gagner and that organization parting ways. However, it’s hard to believe Hemsky, who would arguably fit in perfectly on the left side on one of Columbus’ top two lines, can’t be had for the right price. Unlike the Dallas Stars, the Edmonton Oilers are clearly sellers at the trade deadline.
Considering that Hemsky’s going to be an unrestricted free agent and is mired in a third-straight disappointing season, his price may not be all that high. According to TSN.ca, Edmonton general manager Craig MacTavish is looking primarily at getting second and third-round draft picks this trade deadline.
One or two draft picks would arguably be a fair asking price for Hemsky, even if he has a detailed injury history that rivals that of current-Blue Jacket Marian Gaborik. Nevertheless, rumors of Gaborik’s availability are circling, and, if true, Columbus will need someone to replace him in the lineup (or on injured reserve).
1. Matt Moulson – LW (Buffalo Sabres)
Matt Moulson continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league, as evidenced by his three-straight 30 goal seasons from 2009-2012 and his downright cheap $3.9 million salary. Consider him, as a result, the perfect fit for a small-market franchise rife with them.
In the interest of full disclosure, Moulson will now have gone two seasons without hitting that 30-goal mark. In his defense, though, last year was the 48-game lockout-shortened season (during which he scored 15), and this year he lucked out and got traded to the short-on-offense Buffalo Sabres.
It’s a testament to his abilities that, despite the Sabres being the lowest-scoring team in the league (113 goals in 58 games), Moulson is still putting together a relatively decent season. He has 15 goals and 34 points in 52 games to lead the Sabres in scoring.
The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent is still in his prime, plays left-wing, has proven that he doesn’t need a big name like former linemate John Tavares to put up points and is more put-together than a Gaborik & Hemsky hybrid. To be fair, though, that’s probably also true of a mixture of oil and water.
While the Blue Jackets would undeniably have to give up an arm to get their remaining hand on Moulson, he is undoubtedly the most worthwhile player for them to at least target as the March 5 deadline approaches.