The Blue Jackets held veteran defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov out of the lineup on Tuesday night, as they try to move his services before the upcoming trade deadline. While his trade is going to certainly be for futures, one idea that circulated yesterday and has Jacket fans buzzing: can the team somehow flip assets and come out of this situation with Jakob Chychrun?
It’s a tough situation in Columbus this year as the team continues to retool its lineup with a focus towards competing soon, rather than later. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has done a terrific job rebuilding the prospect pool, which recently ranked as the third best in the league by Scott Wheeler and the Athletic.
But, the on ice results at the NHL level have been far less than desirable. Even after signing Johnny Gaudreau last summer and adding some toughness to the lineup with Mathieu Olivier and Erik Gudbranson, the Jackets have been outright terrible this season. Some of that is the result of injuries, but even without the injuries, this is a team with glaring holes in two key positions: at center, and on defense.
Even with the holes on defense, they find themselves in a tough situation with beloved defenseman Gavrikov, who has opted not to re-sign with the team for whatever reason. His on ice compete level is fantastic, and his personality is infectious. He’s been a leader on the back end and for the younger European players in general since coming here.
Trading him at this point probably leaves this team’s defense at least 2-3 years away from being competitive again. It stings for a variety of reasons. So the first and most important thing on Jarmo’s checklist this offseason has to be finding some kind of stop-gap player to play on the left side of that second pairing, to at least buy time for a prospect like Stanislav Svozil or Denton Mateychuk to work their way into the league.
What better player than Jakob Chychrun? Everything about him is perfect for what this team needs: he’s big, physical, is an extremely effective in-zone defender – especially along the wall – and even has big-time offensive abilities. He’s just 24 years old, and is signed for two seasons after this one at a very team-friendly $4.6m AAV.
He grew up in hockey alongside current Jacket defenseman Andrew Peeke, and if they were somehow able to get him, it’s likely that these two would form the second defense pair for this team. It’s really the perfect scenario, and it could buy just enough time for the prospects to simmer and become NHL players.