The 2019 NHL trade deadline is just two weeks away and franchises across the league are faced with the difficult decision of buying or selling. For Columbus, the decision on selling might be the most interesting story to follow over the next 14 days.
The Jackets currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan division and have a really strong chance of obtaining a playoff berth come April, but does it really make sense with their current roster situation to hold on to All-Star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin?
Both superstars contracts are expiring at season’s end and Columbus would risk losing them for nothing come July. If they decide to loan their contracts to a contending Stanley Cup worthy team, then they could at least get some type of return on their former investments. If they choose to bypass the deadline and keep both Bob and Panarin, then it is boom or bust for the 19-year-old franchise.
There is no doubt that the Jackets have enough talent and depth to compete for a championship, but would it be worth it for the future? I would argue that maybe they can have their cake and eat it too. Columbus should trade their Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, but keep their play making goal scorer with an attempt of making a deep playoff run in 2019.
The likelihood of both players resigning this summer are slim to none, but if history has taught us anything it is that Bob has had his fair share of struggles in the postseason. In just 24 playoff appearances he has a .891 save percentage, 3.49 goals against average, zero shutouts and a record of 5-14. The 30-year-old Russian’s kryptonite throughout his career has been the playoffs and if the Jackets can get some type of return on him they should. Selling him might be difficult, but at least they can get either a first-round or second-round pick or prospect instead of nothing this July.
Backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo has actually played pretty well so far this year for Columbus and has a 9-4-2 record in 16 starts. Both him and Bob have a .901 SV% and Korpisalo has a slightly better GAA at 2.96. Obviously he is still young and inexperienced, but Bob’s troubled past might be a reason to give the 24-year-old Finnish goalie the nod the rest of the way.
Panarin on the other hand is very interesting. Shopping him might not be the wrong move, especially if they can get some ammunition in return. He is currently T-14th in the NHL in points (63) and has been a huge part of the Jackets’ success over the past two seasons. In their six-game first round loss to Washington a season ago, he had seven points (2G, 5A) and was easily the most dominant player on his team.
The Jackets first line of Panarin-Pierre-Luc Dubois–Cam Atkinson is one of the top lines in the East and they have two of the best young defenseman in the league in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. This roster has depth along with valuable playoff experience that could help them make a deep run. Oh, and head coach John Tortorella is a seasoned bench manager who has had his share of postseason success.
The Jackets should be cautious about trading Bob on February 25, but if they can get a valuable return on him then the trigger should be pulled. Just pump the brakes on Panarin and give this talented roster a shot of winning its first playoff series in franchise history.