Columbus Blue Jackets Making Moves of Desperation?


It’s  been a busy few days for the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Tuesday, the club announced they reassigned defenseman Frederic St. Denis to their AHL affiliate in Springfield. In four games with the Jackets this season, St. Denis had only one assist and was -1.

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Also on Tuesday, they claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers from the Dallas Stars. Connauton played eight games with Dallas this season, having also earned only one point and going -4. In his career, Connauton has played in 44 NHL games, scoring only one goal and adding nine assists for ten points with a -2 rating. He has played in 4 NHL playoff games and is scoreless in the post-season.

Then, yesterday, the Jackets reassigned center Michael Chaput to Springfield as well. Chaput has played 18 games with the Jackets this season, scoring two assists with a -7 rating.

With the weekend injury of Fedor Tyutin and acquisition of Jordan Leopold, it seems like the Jackets’ blue line looks different every night. They got Ryan Murray back from recurring knee problems for four short games, and now he is out again with the same issue. Tyutin is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Trading a draft pick for Leopold was in reaction to Tyutin’s injury, and it’s likely acquiring Connauton was a similar decision.

“We don’t know, he might be out for the season, might be out for another three weeks,” Jarmo Kekalainen told NBC Sports.  “We’re not sure yet. We needed another defenseman.

The Jackets picked up Connauton off waivers on Tuesday, after it became clear that Murray will be out a while, and defenseman Cody Golobeuf may not even return to action this season. Golobeuf was suffered a knee injury on November 1st, and his time out depends on how it heals. No one knows for sure what will happen, and like Jarmo said, the team needed anther defenseman.

These moves feel like the moves of a desperate hockey team. A team that has been ravaged by injuries and is making moves that will put players on the ice right now. Jordan Leopold flew to Columbus and played in the game against the Sharks Saturday night, just hours after being traded.

But is this really the kind of moves we want to see them make? Earlier this season, Jarmo was very clear that he wants to do things that are in the long-term benefit of the franchise as a whole. Short-term solutions don’t fix anything ( I’mparaphrasing, but that’s basically what he said). But is that still the philosophy?

It doesn’t seem like it. Trading future draft picks for a player who only has 221 points in 661 NHL games doesn’t seem like it is in the best, long-term interest of the franchise. Granted, it was 5th round pick, but making the trade for Leopold felt like a desperate move. They needed someone they could put on the ice right then, and there he was.

Then, there’s the acquisition of Connauton. Jarmo even said himself that they did it because they needed another defenseman. They got him off waivers, so they didn’t have to make a trade. It was easy, convenient, and desperate.

Although these moves seem like crappy moves made by a desperate hockey team, I can’t totally blame the Jackets’ management. After all, they had to do something. With as many injuries as they’ve been facing, they have to have someone to put on the ice, and picking someone up off waivers is preferable to stealing the entire Springfield roster.

If the Jackets didn’t pick up Leopold and Connauton, there would have to be two less defensemen in Springfield. They would have had to call up two more defensemen, and they would likely have been rookies that have seen very little, if any NHL action. Plus, how much can Springfield handle? They have to take into account the fact that Springfield needs a team to put on the ice too. With the number of injuries the Jackets have had, the Falcons roster would be decimated if the Jackets didn’t make some kind of moves.

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So, even though the moves are desperate, they are also, sadly, necessary. These moves don’t have the typical Jarmo feel: usually when he makes a move, it’s immediately clear what role the player is expected to fill long-term. Plus, Jarmo is notoriously fond of his draft picks; he doesn’t usually trade them away as easily as he did this weekend. They might be short-term solutions, but what choice did he have? Faced with a team decimated by injuries, he had to do something, had to get skaters on the ice, even if it is isn’t his typical long-term type of deal.