Rumors are swirling around the NHL, with the trade deadline approaching, teams are looking to jockey themselves for a playoff run this season - or make adjustments to try and get there next year.
The Blue Jackets are sellers for sure, and are probably at least two years away from being a real playoff threat. They're looking to offload expiring contracts and build towards future success.
The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, are one of those teams trying to build for contention next year. I think the two could make sense as trade partners.
We'll start with Columbus. The Blue Jackets have long searched for quality centers. They have some pieces in the makings with Adam Fantilli, Cole Sillinger, Dmitri Voronkov, and perhaps Luca del bel Belluz.
But, until those guys are ready to take on the heavy minutes of a top-6 role, this team will continue to struggle. The problem is, this team needs to take a step forward next season, and may not want to wait for these guys to develop.
Buffalo, on the other hand, has locked up most of its young core for the next several years. They have Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens signed to be their top-2 centers - which might mean that emerging star Casey Mittelstadt could be up for grabs.
In the salary cap era, it's hard for teams to keep too many players at one position. For Buffalo, this might mean moving on from Mittelstadt, a former #8 overall pick who took more time to develop than expected. He's a restricted free agent this summer, and with the team stagnating, he could be a prime trade chip for them to reset and improve elsewhere in the lineup.
Mittelstadt is leading the Sabres in scoring with 42 points this year. He would be the perfect center to step into a top-six role with the Jackets, and they could lock him up long-term.
One thing that has been talked about on the 32 Thoughts Podcast recently: Does Buffalo want to throw the bank at another center? They already have two signed for more than a $7m AAV, and they're still struggli in the standings.
For them to improve, it really feels like they need some depth and experience. Maybe some grit, and a two-way presence. You know who fits that bill? Columbus Blue Jacket captain Boone Jenner.
I'm not going to say that the Blue Jackets would trade Jenner to Buffalo and land Mittelstadt in a one-for-one deal. That would be a terrible move for the Sabres. But, the Jackets have a really nice gathering of depth players in the NHL - and some really close to NHL ready prospects that could step in and play soon, as well.
If the Jackets were willing to package Jenner with some of that depth, or perhaps one or two of those high end prospects, I think there could be a deal that makes sense for both sides here.
If Mittelstadt is in fact being discussed in trades, Jarmo Kekalainen would be wise to get on the phone. This player would make a ton of sense for the Blue Jackets.