Last week we ran down some potential trade ideas for pending unrestricted free agent Gustav Nyquist. This week, we’ll do the same thing with another pending UFA for the Blue Jackets: defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.
Vlad was originally picked in the 6th round (#159 overall) at the 2015 NHL Draft, though many in the scouting community had him ranked in the second or third round. He took his time developing in Russia, but upon coming to North America, he was an NHL ready player who was able to slot right into the second defense pairing for the Blue Jackets; which is where he’s been for four seasons now.
While his offensive numbers don’t jump off the page at you, he’s a predictable, reliable defender who eats up minutes and has stayed mostly healthy, which is surprising when you see how he plays. He’ll lay out and block shots, does a terrific job using his body to break up time and space or slow an attack, and has just enough skill to move the puck out of the zone with a quick pass. And, when he does score, he has the best celly in the league:
Any team looking for a top-four defenseman should be all in on Gavrikov, because I think he’s one of the more underrated defensemen in the league. His dependability and happy-go-lucky attitude makes him a fantastic add to any team looking to make a long playoff run this year. At just 27 years old, he’s right in the heart of his prime, and he’s under a team-friendly contract with just a $2.8m AAV. Nearly every team in the league can find a way to make this deal, if they so choose.
The Blue Jackets don’t want to trade Gavrikov, and nor should they. They already have the most inexperienced defense corps in the NHL with him in the lineup – trading him means they’ll likely remain that way for at least a couple more seasons. It would be a big hole on the back end for a team that has struggled defensively over the past three seasons.
The only reason we’re having this discussion is because Gavrikov has yet to sign a contract extension with the Blue Jackets. While a contract could hypothetically be done before the deadline, GM Jarmo Kekalainen is wise to explore his options here because this team cannot afford to lose valuable assets for nothing. And with them sitting dead last in the NHL standings, it’s not like trading him out is going to ruin anything they have going on this year.
So, we find ourselves diving into some potential trades for our beloved Vlad. He flies under the radar a little bit, but I have a feeling that whoever makes a deal for him, improves their Stanley Cup odds dramatically.