Columbus Blue Jackets: Interest Surrounding Jack Johnson
With five days until the NHL Trade Deadline, Scott Hartnell and Fedor Tyutin have been popular names discussed as Columbus Blue Jackets potentially on the move. Jack Johnson, however, is possibly the Jackets’ top trade chip entering the deadline. Teams are definitely calling on Johnson, as he brings an offensive punch and has improved his defensive play in recent games. While Johnson remains a fan favorite and has heavy supporters in the organization, the 29 year old left handed defenseman is not a piece of the team’s young core moving forward. With the strong play of Seth Jones and Ryan Murray, Johnson has been relegated to second pairing minutes with David Savard on a blue line that has Zach Werenski knocking for ice time as early as next season. When Werenski makes the jump to the NHL, he will soon find his fit on the second pairing with David Savard, pushing Johnson further down the line up to the third pairing. Ultimately, Johnson brings heart, leadership and passion to the game for the Blue Jackets and seeing him involved in a trade would be a tough loss for the team and fans, but his time in Columbus appears to be coming to a close.
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With Seth Jones up for a contract extension, defense has the potential to be an interesting position for the Blue Jackets this offseason. Jack Johnson has an annual salary cap hit of $4,357,142 for two more seasons, which makes he and Fedor Tyutin the highest paid players on the Jackets’ blue line. Neither Johnson, nor Tyutin have a long term fit in Columbus, but may be in demand with contenders entering the Trade Deadline.
Between Dalton Prout and Cody Goulebeouf, the team has their sixth and seventh defenseman next season currently on the roster and a fifth defenseman can inexpensively be acquired in Free Agency this summer if a prospect does not prove ready for the promotion. Third pairing defenseman will be a surplus in free agency and most can be had on a short term deal for $1-2 million per season. This is a clear area for the Blue Jackets to save some cap space via trade and bring in futures to bolster their prospect pool.
Who is interested in Jack Johnson
The Detroit Red Wings have recently been scouting the Blue Jackets and their need for a top-four left-handed defenseman is well-documented. Last year at the deadline the team was entertaining the idea of dealing for Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf, who is no longer available after being dealt earlier this month to the Ottawa Senators. While most Blue Jackets’ fans believe/hope the Red Wings are targeting Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson may fit their needs better.
Johnson has a slightly lower cap hit, can still play top four minutes, contributes offensively and is younger. If the Red Wings were to make a move on Johnson, the Blue Jackets would likely be able to receive a top prospect and a draft pick in return. Additionally, if the Blue Jackets were willing to take Jakub Kindl back in the deal, they could increase the return and potentially have their third pairing defenseman for next season. A change of scenery for Kindl may improve his game and the one year remaining on his contract does not require the Jackets to make a significant commitment.
The Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes and New Jersey Devils are a few teams that may make interesting trading partners with the Blue Jackets ahead of the trade deadline. If a deal is not made in the upcoming days, look to see a deal made in the offseason or next season involving Johnson, as the youth movement slowly pushes Johnson out of Columbus. While a Fedor Tyutin trade is a priority, Jack Johnson’s popularity as an offensive defenseman may force Jarmo to act sooner, rather than later.