The Columbus Blue Jackets trade deadline transactions were plentiful this year. A total of four trades between February 25th and February 26th bolstered the roster for a playoff push. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen made sure that each trade addressed one of the Blue Jackets needs, but did not overpay. Now the team has to figure out how each player added will help the team.
Columbus Blue Jackets Trade Deadline Improved the Team
The Blue Jackets sent a 2018 fourth-round pick to the Nashville Predators to bring Mark Letestu back to Columbus from Edmonton, in a three-team trade. Letestu is a name many Blue Jackets fans will know well. In the 2011-12 season, the Blue Jackets sent the Pittsburgh Penguins a fourth-round pick to bring Letestu to Columbus. Letestu spent four years with the Blue Jackets between 2011-2015, but left for the Edmonton Oilers in free agency.
Now Letestu is back in Columbus to be an easy fix for the Blue Jackets depth at centre. That spot has been a concern all season, especially on the fourth line. Winning just over half of his face-offs, the Blue Jackets now have four good centres who can handle their own against most centres in the league. That is Letestu’s main purpose, but he might also be an offensive spark for them. In his first game back, Letestu scored a goal to give the Blue Jackets a 3-1 lead over the Washington Capitals.
On the day of the deadline, the first trade Kekalainen made was to bring defenseman Ian Cole to Columbus. Cole was traded first from Pittsburgh to the Ottawa Senators on February 23rd but was flipped to Columbus. The Blue Jackets sent a 2020 third-round pick and minor league forward Nick Moutrey to Ottawa in exchange for Cole.
With Cole on the blue line, Columbus’s defence is stacked. Cole was originally thought to be brought in to make Jack Johnson more expendable, but the Blue Jackets didn’t trade Johnson. As a result of Johnson staying on the team, the Blue Jackets have six good defenders. That will go a long way in making a push for the playoffs and making a run once in the playoffs. Cole is not a scorer like Zach Werenski and Seth Jones are, but more of a pure defender. Just three goals and 10 assists in 42 games this year – his career high in points is 26 that was set last season.
The second trade made by the team today was a minor league deal. Prospects Jordan Maletta and Carter Camper were sent to the Arizona Coyotes. In return, the Blue Jackets received forward Ryan Kujawinski, who was assigned to the AHL Cleveland Monsters. Kujawinski was a third-round pick in 2013 and has spent his entire professional career in the AHL. In 115 games he has scored 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points. This seems like a trade to help players develop a the AHL level.
The final trade of the day for Kekalainen came almost right at the deadline. The Blue Jackets sent forward Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen to the Vancouver Canucks for Thomas Vanek. The 34-year-old veteran is now on his eighth team, but all of the moving around has not slowed Vanek down at all. Just this season alone, Vanek is on pace for a 20-goal and 50-point season.
Vanek will come in to help on the Blue Jackets offence, but specifically on the power-play. He has 350 goals in his career – 133 of those goals have been with a man advantage. There is also something to be said about the veteran presence when the Blue Jackets get to the playoffs and Vanek looks to be the key to getting out of the first round for the first time in franchise history.
What’s Next For Columbus
There were a lot of trades this year by the Columbus Blue Jackets and all of them helped boost the organization. Mark Letestu helped the depth at the centre position. Ian Cole will be a huge addition on the blue line. Ryan Kujawinski might not help at the NHL level, but he will help develop the players at the AHL level. Lastly, Thomas Vanek will be the offensive spark the Blue Jackets have been looking for all season long.
Main Image Credit: