With the expansion draft looming, there is a relatively tough decision that the Columbus Blue Jackets will have to face: Who will they protect? With David Clarkson not counting towards the seven forwards that Columbus has to protect, that leaves four spots. Two of the four spots will very likely be occupied by Brandon Saad and Cam Atkinson.
In the first article of this series, we took a look on whether or not the Blue Jackets should expose or protect William Karlsson. In the second part we take a look at the hard-skating, end-to-end forward that is Boone Jenner.
Columbus Blue Jackets Expose or Protect: Boone Jenner
Boone Jenner has seemed to find himself in the good favor of head coach John Tortorella over the last two seasons, and rightly so. The Canadian-born forward plays an end-to-end, gritty, hard working style of hockey, and that’s exactly what Tortorella looks for in his skaters. It’s for the same reason that much of the Fifth Line faithful have come to love Jenner as well.
Despite the fact that Jenner had a down year in 2016-17, there is every reason to believe that his 2015-16 production can be replicated in the future. Aside from his 31-game season in 2014-15, the 8.5% shooting percentage Jenner had last year was the worst of his young career. With the way Jenner plays, and the energy he brings to every zone of the ice, there is more than enough reason to believe his shooting percentage can be closer to his career percentage of 11.3% rather than duplicating the 8.5% of this last season.
If Jenner takes 200 shots next season, a number he exceeded in each of the last two years, and his shooting percentage goes back to just under his career average at 11%, that would give him 22 goals. For a forward that isn’t necessarily relied on for scoring, that is a great return. The 23-year old has plenty of time this off-season to sort things out.
The one thing that some may criticize Jenner for is his discipline, or lack thereof. His 77 penalty minutes during the 2015-16 season was frustrating, to say the least. However, under the tutelage of John Tortorella, Jenner only had 52 penalty minutes in 82 games this season. If he can continue to see that number drop, accompanied by the rise in point production, it would be tough to make a case to let Jenner go in the upcoming expansion draft.
Why Vegas Would Pick Jenner
Jenner is a bit of a utility forward, with the ability to play both on the wing and in the center of the ice. This is a valuable trait that a new team would love to have for their depth forwards.
Along with being able to play in multiple positions, he is solid in all areas of the ice and has time on his side. The thought of having a forward with solid upside for only $2.9 million is an enticing opportunity. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities to see the Vegas Golden Knights select Jenner if he is left exposed.
Another positive, and an intangible that will help in a new organization, is the leadership that Jenner brings to the table. At only 23 years of age Jenner is already wearing an “A” on his sweater, and Vegas will surely take note of that if he is left exposed. A talented, young forward with leadership experience. What’s not to like?
Replacements for Jenner
Much the same as the case with William Karlsson, there is a good deal of prospects that could fill the shoes of Jenner if he goes to Vegas. Players like Pierre-Luc Dubois, who can play on the wing and in the center of the ice as well, Paul Bittner, and Sonny Milano could all have a chance to fill the roster spot left by Jenner.
The loss of Jenner would also mean more money under the cap, putting Columbus at roughly $5.8 million of cap space if Jenner’s contract goes elsewhere. This is plenty enough money for Columbus to re-sign the likes of Sam Gagner for depth, and possibly even venture into free agency to fill the void that Jenner would leave.
While both are viable options, putting them together in some capacity would be the best route to take. Giving the prospects a chance to prove themselves, like the Blue Jackets did this season, is pivotal for the organization to continue moving in the right direction. Any affordable additions in free agency should also be pursued.
While there are likely viable and affordable options to replace Jenner, he is worthy of being protected. When looking at his competition in Josh Anderson, William Karlsson, and Matt Calvert, Jenner stands out as one that should be protected in the expansion draft.