Columbus Blue Jackets Season in Review: Vladislav Gavrikov

Coming into the season on the last year of his contract, Vladislav Gavrikov seemed like an important piece for the Blue Jackets to lock up. Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to come to agreeable terms, and Gavrikov was dealt to the LA Kings at the trade deadline. By the time it’s all said and done, we may look back and think of Vlad as “the one that got away”.

Originally drafted by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round (#159 overall) at the 2015 Draft, Gavrikov took his time getting to the NHL – opting to spend four seasons in Russia before coming to North America. He stepped right into the fold with the Jackets to help with their playoff run in 2019, before joining the roster full-time for the 2019-20 season. Vlad took in heavy minutes almost right away, skating on the second defense pair with David Savard.

He spent the next three full seasons in Columbus, establishing himself as a solid second pairing defender, capable of playing in a shutdown role while also providing a touch of offense. He also became a fan favorite because of his carefree, comical personality and his “call me” goal celebration.

In fact, if you had told me before the season that the Jackets wouldn’t extend Vlad, I would have probably laughed. He seemed like a key ingredient to the mix here, and his importance to this team was magnified early in the season when the defense corps was decimated by injuries. He quickly went from 18-20 minutes a night, to 25+ minutes per game, giving this team a steady, experienced leader on the back end.

If you’re looking at counting stats, you really don’t get the full story here. Gavrikov isn’t a player who is going to produce huge numbers, or spend a bunch of time on the power-play. But, he’s a reliable defender who does an excellent job using his body to take away time and space. He can block shots, uses his stick well, has perfected the ” puck flip” out of the defensive zone, and will surprise you every so often by jumping into the rush and scoring a goal.

Nov 10, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (4) in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it was based on term, or dollars, or even just wanting a change deep down, the Jackets and Gavrikov were unable to agree to a contract extension. Ultimately, he was dealt along with Joonas Korpisalo, to the LA Kings – in exchange for a couple of draft picks. In one decisive deal, two of the most beloved Blue Jackets in recent memory were shipped west for futures.

Final season stats: 72 games played (50 w/CBJ), 6 goals (3 w/CBJ), 13 assists (7 w/CBJ), 19 points (10 w/CBJ), 38 PIMs, +4, 89 shots on goal. Overall grade: B

As we head into the summer, the Jackets have a clear and glaring need for a top-four, left-hand shot, shutdown defenseman. Which is exactly what they had in Vladislav Gavrikov. For this reason, and all of the reasons mentioned above, trading this player away stings. I get that they probably only wanted him for two or three more seasons, but this seems like poor asset management from a team whose prospects aren’t entirely ready. They traded away a great locker room guy, with experience, in a position of great need. Finding a replacement for Vlad has now become priority #1 this offseason.