The trade deadline is quickly approaching. Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson have a lot of decisions to make. The Columbus Blue Jackets have to decide what they want to do with defensemen Jack Johnson. It was first reported by the Athletic’s Aaron Portzline on January 11th that Johnson requested a trade. There are a lot of options for the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline.
Jack Johnson Trade Rumours and the Columbus Blue Jackets
The biggest rumours in Columbus at the trade deadline revolve around veteran defenseman Jack Johnson. Neither the 31-year-old nor his agent has commented on the trade request. Johnson reportedly told the team that his diminished role and pending free-agency were the key factors in the request.
Normally with a team in the playoff picture, you would expect to hear them being buyers. The Blue Jackets have to find a way to get a good value for Johnson that can help the team now. This will be a tough task for Kekalainen and Davidson since Johnson is a free agent July 1st. This means that Johnson will have to be traded to another playoff contender.
The Asking Price is
What the Blue Jackets should try to get for Johnson is a top-nine forward to spark the offence. Columbus has scored 131 goals this season that is the least of any team currently sitting in a playoff spot. The Blue Jackets know that to go on a playoff run they have to be sound on both offence and defence.
In order to get a top-nine forward Blue Jackets might have to look for their own rental. This means trading for a player that can help make an immediate push for the playoffs but only has a year or less on his contract. After the trade, Columbus would have to hope to re-sign the player or let them walk in free agency.
One option is to look for a three-way deal. Perhaps Johnson goes to a playoff contender who needs a defenceman. That team trades prospects or picks to a third team who gives Columbus a rental forward. Similarly Columbus could trade Johnson for future assets and flip those future assets for the piece they want.
The Aftermath of a Trade
If the Blue Jackets do go after forward that would leave the Blue Jackets defence in a particular situation. The top five defensemen have been set for most of the season as Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, David Savard, Markus Nutivaara, and Johnson. The sixth-man had been a rotation between Ryan Murray (when healthy) and Scott Harrington. With Johnson gone that opens the door for them to take full-time spots on the blueline and opens the door for someone like Dean Kukan to get into the NHL.
The 24-year-old has played only nine games in the NHL but has spent the last three season in Cleveland with the AHL affiliate Monsters. Kukan does not have the best offensive stats with just 76 points in his three AHL seasons. Kukan will not be asked for much offensively. Johnson has not been asked to do much offensively with the emergence of Werenski and Jones. Johnson had a 33-point and a 44-point season between 2013-2015. Since then he has had a 14-point and a 23-point season.
The Blue Jackets will look for a player that can be a solid defender and they feel like Kukan is that guy. Kukan has one of the largest sample sizes of the players in AHL. This has allowed the Blue Jackets to start to noticing Kukan. Kukan also played in 17 of the 19 Monsters game during their Calder Cup Championship run in 2015.
Gabriel Carlsson has also played 14 games for the Blue Jackets this season but is currently in the AHL with the Monsters. The 21-year-old has a lot of potential. He is young and developing and needs minutes. The Jackets may consider calling him up if they feel that he will play in the top 6, but if a call-up means press box time, they would likely leave him in Cleveland where he can continue to get plenty of ice time.
Jack Johnson’s rumoured trade request has put the Columbus Blue Jackets in an odd situation. The Blue Jackets has to find a catalyst on offence and can use Johnson to find that. However, if Johnson is traded for a forward that then leaves an opening on the third pairing that already has been a revolving door.
TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 08: Columbus Blue Jackets Defenceman Jack Johnson (7) in warm-ups prior to the regular season NHL game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs on January 8, 2018, at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)