As we head into the offseason, the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ summer plans became clearer after last Tuesday’s NHL Draft lottery. We now know the Jackets currently hold picks number 6 and 12 in the first round of the draft, as they failed to win either of the NHL’s drawings.
In total, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen has seven picks to work with, which opens up plenty of options for the club as they continue to try and improve the roster. But making the picks as they sit isn’t the only option for the team’s management brass. Let’s dive into a few scenarios.
Columbus Blue Jackets Option 1: Make the picks
The easiest, and most linear path here for Jarmo Kekalainen is to use the picks he has at his disposal. After having three first-round picks last summer, the team could look to add two more high-end prospects in the first round this year – continuing to restock the cupboards and build towards the future. The Jackets also hold their own second-round pick, as well as picks in the third, fourth (x2), and seventh rounds.
It’s no secret that Jarmo and his scouting staff are some of the best in the business when it comes to talent evaluation – especially in the later rounds – and if the team holds its course with these selections, it’s hard to imagine this being a bad decision.
Columbus Blue Jackets Option 2: Move Picks Around
This one is probably the most likely, even if “only” a minor deal comes along. With two first-round picks and some depth picks in the draft, it’s very plausible that the team leverages their way to move up or down in the draft order at some point in the draft. We’ve seen this in the past, most notably in 2013 when the team sent the 44th overall pick (Tristan Jarry) to Pittsburgh, in exchange for picks #50 (Dillon Heatherington) and #89 (Oliver Bjorkstrand).
I would be hard-pressed to see the team move the #6 overall pick unless someone blows them away with an offer they can’t refuse. My money would be on the team standing pat with that pick – but options with their own #12 pick could be interesting.
After the first handful of prospects, there are a lot of names all over the board. Should Jarmo and his scouting team covet a player that might be available lower in the first round, they could move this pick back and acquire other assets. Or, on the other end, they could throw in a pick in a later round to move up a few spots and nail down a prospect they really like.
Columbus Blue Jackets Option 3: Acquire Immediate Help
This option could be most exciting for Jacket fans. There will be plenty of teams scrambling for salary cap space this summer, and honestly, something has to give. The Blue Jackets are in a great spot, with over $26 million in cap space, though a good portion of that will go to pending restricted free agent Patrik Laine.
Still, the team sits near the bottom of the league in money spent, and with holes throughout the lineup, could weaponize this space to add a quality NHL player. This would be appealing for a team that exceeded expectations this season and could help them accelerate their rebuilding process, vaulting themselves back into playoff contention.
Now, that isn’t to say the Blue Jackets are in a spot where they can take on a bad contract to help a team out of trouble. My belief is, that if the team is moving draft picks, it will be for a player that will contribute immediately, and for the foreseeable future.
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Most notably, this is a club in desperate need of help down the middle, and if a quality, age, and roster-compatible center come along, I think they will jump at that opportunity. Surely, there are a lot of directions the draft process could go. What do you think? Feel free to comment below!