There have been rumors circulating as of late that the Columbus Blue Jackets are interested in acquiring a center. While this comes as no surprise to anyone, there is one option that could quickly turn them into a more serious Stanley Cup Contender: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Should Acquire Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
There are multiple reasons why Nugent-Hopkins would instantly make Columbus a contender, aside from the obvious fact that he is just a very good hockey player. To fully understand how, and why, the Blue Jackets would acquire him, we need to take a look at the pros and cons of Nugent-Hopkins.
What Nugent-Hopkins Would Improve
The first thing that comes to mind, and the most obvious, is the need for another 1C/2C in the Columbus roster. While Alexander Wennberg is a great top six center, and arguably a 1C, he needs another center to help carry the load. Adding Nugent-Hopkins as the 2C would lighten the load Wennberg is currently carrying.
While the Blue Jackets did draft Pierre-Luc Dubois to eventually transition to center, he isn’t ready to do that in a top six capacity. And with Brandon Dubinsky no longer playing at that level either, it is showing the Jackets one true weakness: a need for a top six center. This is something Nugent-Hopkins would immediately fix.
The second thing that comes to mind would be the ailing powerplay of Columbus. Currently operating at a less than pedestrian 9.7%, good for 31st in the NHL, they are in need of help. Having Nugent-Hopkins would help to take a step in the right direction.
While he isn’t an elite powerplay center, he is certainly able to slot into one of the two powerplay units immediately. He has had double digit powerplay points in every season throughout his career, proving he could help to bring the sometimes utterly unwatchable powerplay of the Jackets back into respectability.
Another note would be his style of play. While he isn’t likely to light up the stat sheet, he could fit in well. He is a solid two-way center that can push the 60 point mark. This is something the Blue Jackets would greatly benefit from having.
When you look at these few arguments, it can more than justify what is likely going to be a hefty price tag. However, there are a few downsides to this hypothetical deal.
Cons of Trading for Nugent-Hopkins
The most obvious would be the price tag. Nugent-Hopkins is having a great season, and this is only going to push his price tag even higher.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Nugent-Hopkins would not assess the need of Columbus to have a quality face-off winner. While he is operating at 50.29% in 2017-18, he is a career 43.6% in the dot. This will not help the already sub-par Columbus squad.
The last thing to think on, and this can be somewhat easily addressed, is the $6 million cap hit he carries through the 2020-21 season. Columbus currently has just over $5 million in cap space, so trading just about anyone for Nugent-Hopkins would allow them to bring him in.
This would, however, mean that the Blue Jackets would have $16.75 million of cap space tied up in Wennberg, Nugent-Hopkins, and Dubinsky. There are surely worst cases to be in, but they would have to be smart moving forward to avoid this becoming a serious issue.
Why the Blue Jackets Should Do This and Who They Could Offer
Overall, Nugent-Hopkins looks to be the best option that is open for deals. With other names being tossed out there, Nugent-Hopkins looks to be the better of the current options for multiple reasons.
While he would not assess the issue on the face-off dot for Columbus, he does bring a lot of positives with him. He would instantly improve an ailing powerplay, would finally give the Jackets the 1C/2C they are in need of, and all of this comes at a relatively reasonable price of $6 million per season for another three years.
As for who they could offer, that’s another question all on its own. With the Edmonton Oilers having a rough season, they would likely be looking for help on the blue line. They have currently allowed 76 goals, the fifth worst in the league.
Luckily for Columbus, this is a place that they can afford to part with someone. Offering any of the current bottom three defenseman of Ryan Murray, Gabriel Carlsson or Markus Nutivaara along with a future draft pick or a forward prospect would likely entice the Oilers and not bankrupt the Blue Jackets.
While this surely would be a high price to pay for center with a career high of 56 points, it would assess many of the weaknesses Columbus is currently facing. Adding Nugent-Hopkins would surely make Columbus a serious contender.