The Columbus Blue Jackets franchise was established in 2000. Since then, the team has only made the playoffs four times with each postseason appearance ending in a first round exit. However, with the moves that Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen has made in the past few days. It seems that he is trying to prove to the Blue Jackets’ fan base that his team can accomplish more than merely a playoff berth.
On Friday, Kekäläinen landed star forward Matt Duchene and prospect Julius Bergman from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick, a conditional 2020 first-round pick and prospects Jonathan Davidsson and Vitaly Abramov according to NHL Discussion. The conditional first-round pick will be awarded to the Senators only if Duchene re-signs with the Blue Jackets over the offseason. The 28-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018-2019 year.
Despite this already being a blockbuster trade, Kekäläinen wasn’t done just yet. The very next day, he acquired left-winger Ryan Dzingel and a 2019 seventh-round pick from the Senators in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick, a 2021 second-round pick and left-winger Anthony Duclair according to NHL Discussion.
Both of these trades can be seen as a win-win for the Senators and Blue Jackets. On one end, the Blue Jackets now have the pieces they need to become a contender for the Stanley Cup. Duchene is currently having the best season of his career. As of right now, the Canadian native has 60 points in just 52 games. Overall, Duchene will add a lot of depth to the center position for the Blue Jackets as he will be sharing prime time minutes with 2016 third-overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois.
As for Dzingel, the 26-year-old is also having the best year of his career. The Illinois native has already surpassed his career high 41 points from last season with 44 tallies in 57 contests so far in 2018-2019. Dzingel is expected to play a key role on the Blue Jackets’ second-line.
On the other hand, when looking at the trade through the lens of general manager Pierre Dorion and the Senators, the return for their two star players is significant. By trading Duchene, Dorion has now done damage control on the horrible trade that brought the forward over from the Colorado Avalanche in the first place. The deal ended up costing the Senators a 2019 first-round pick, a 2018 third-round pick, 2017 first-round pick Shane Bowers and forward Kyle Turris.
Although Dorion didn’t receive nearly that much from the Blue Jackets in return for Duchene, having a 2019 first-round pick and most likely an extra 2020 first-round pick will help jump-start the Senators’ rebuild. The two second-round picks for Dzingel will also further increase the Senators’ prospect pool.
Dorion is aware that his team will not be competitive for another few years. However, with these high round draft selections, he is ensuring that the Senators will have the youthful pieces they need in order to become playoff contenders again in the coming seasons.
With the 2019 trade deadline fastly approaching on Monday, February, 25, Kekäläinen and the Blue Jackets still might not be finished making moves. After trading for Duchene, Kekäläinen stated that he is still willing to deal star left-winger Artemi Panarin before the deadline if the price is right according to NHL Discussion. However, after acquiring Dzingel, it appears that it is more likely that Kekäläinen will keep Panarin and instead, attempt to go all in this postseason and try to win a Stanley Cup. The 27-year-old Russian will be a free agent at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
Team wise, the Blue Jackets are currently ranked third in the Metropolitan Division with 73 points and a 35-23-3 record. They sit just six points back of the division leading New York Islanders who have 79 points. Since acquiring Duchene, the Blue Jackets have shut out both the Senators and San Jose Sharks by scores of 3-0 and 4-0.