Mar 22, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin (6) during pre game warm-ups between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena. Columbus beat Calgary 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Which Columbus Blue Jackets Player Will Leave?


The Columbus Blue Jackets season may only be 11 games old, but it’s never too early to talk about the future. Before we know it, the trade deadline will be here and it’s more than likely we’ll have to say goodbye to a Columbus player. So, in the “way-too-early-to-talk-about-the-trade-deadline” article, let’s discuss a couple of players on the hot seat.

R.J. Umberger:

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Why: I’ve bounced his name around a few times here and there in trade talk, but it never seems to pick up any real steam. Umberger’s story is intriguing though. A few years ago, Umberger seemed like the no-brainer to wear the “C” once Rick Nash left. R.J. was work horse. He worked hard, scored goals, and went home. You could depend on it.

But ever since the the dreadful 2011 season, Umberger hasn’t quite been the same player. Some fans described him as a streaky goal scorer. He was anything but. R.J. was Mr. Consistency. Finesse was never his game, but he still found a way to put the puck in the back of the net.

But since then? It’s as if the main headline with him remains the same: “Will Umberger find his game again?” I’m rooting for the guy but we need to be realistic. This guy screams “trade-bait.” He’s only 31, which makes it both the ideal age as well as the scariest age to sign a player. But when you’re trading a player, 31 means “experienced.” Other teams would love to have a player like him, and the Jackets could really get a good prospect in return.

The Bottom Line: In the end, does Umberger go? I don’t know. Yeah, yeah, it’s a cop out. I’ll admit. I’ll allow the same “Will Umberger find his game again?” headline to be re-printed for a couple more months before I give a definitive answer. Umberger deserves that much.

Nikita Nikitin:

 

The Why: When the Columbus Blue Jackets traded for Nikita Nikitin, they were dumping off Kris Russell. (Remember him?) What we got back was a stud. A couple years later opinions have changed.

In hindsight, Niktin looked so good because he wasn’t named Kris Russell. Nothing against Russell, per se, but that Blue Jackets blue line was bad and needed to go. But funny thing about sports, expectations change. Nikitin on a mediocre blue line isn’t half bad. Nikitin on an impressive one? Different story.

It’s not that Nikitin is a terrible defenseman. But sometimes, your games just doesn’t gel with a team anymore. Fan conversation keeps steering back to the idea of Nikitin being traded. It’s not as if management is trading a defenseman from Blue Jackets blue line past, though. They’re (potentially, I guess I need to say) trading a young Nikitin on a blue line that is buried with depth.

The Bottom Line: I hope Nikita made time to visit Easton and catch a Buckeyes game because he’s gone come the deadline. With Tim Erixon chomping at the bits and David Savard not giving in, Nikita is just a defenseman short of keeping his place. It’s best if we trade him now and get something out of him, than watch the chemistry on the blue line falter.

 

 

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  • Dale

    Umberger would have to waive his NTC in order to be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Davidson and Kekalainen at least sit down and have a talk with him. Umberger’s contract is a little large IMO.

    If Prout and Savard stay healthy and keep playing well, I could see Nikitin getting traded. If not, he is a UFA at the end of the season anyway.

  • RedStorm45

    LOL Umberger as a NTC, and no one wants his massive salary with his production. He likes Columbus, so waiving his NTC is very unlikely to happen. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with him (and his cap hit) for awhile.

    Nikitin I’ve been saying should be traded since last season. He’s just an average defenseman. With the young guys coming up, he’s going to get squeezed out anyway. Try to pick up a prospect or draft pick for him and say goodbye. Erixon, Goloubef, Melart…all guys who very well could crack the lineup in the next 2-3 years. Nikitin is just unimpressive and turns the puck over WAY too much.

    Arty seems to have found his game. Letestu has been lackluster so far through 11 games and isn’t really too fast, nor does he play a physical game – the two hallmarks this team is rallying around (or trying to at least).