Straight Jackets: Deadline deals
I try not to look at the NHL standings too often — it just makes me even more nervous.
As General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in our last Straight Jackets column, the team is currently in playoff position. But that position is precarious, as the Jackets find themselves in the second Wild Card spot, the eighth of eight in the Eastern Conference. It's one of those things that you know it's not ideal, but if you don't look at it, it doesn't seem as dire.
Kekalainen also said making the playoffs is the team's goal. That's as it should be. His moves at the NHL's trade deadline this past Monday affirm that he's committed to the goal, but not at the expense of what he hopes/expects to be future success. The Jackets have been the league's youngest team for the past two seasons, and the front office is committed to the youth it has assembled, including struggling young forwards Alexander Wennberg, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Boone Jenner, as well as the next wave of prospects, none of whom were moved in three deals that brought veteran depth to the Jackets as they looked to boost the team's chances of making the postseason this year. (Incredibly, it would be the first time in the team's history it would qualify for the playoffs in consecutive years.)
Here's a quick look at the team's deadline activity:
Mark Letestu for a 2018 4th round draft pick
Letestu is a Swiss Army knife of a player, a guy who helps especially on the faceoff dot and on special teams, all areas of concern for the CBJ. He was a fan favorite in his previous stint in Union Blue, and reportedly owns a home here. He scored a goal in his first game back against Washington Monday night, and looked to be having a great time on the ice. Let's hope it's contagious.
Ian Cole for prospect forward Nick Moutrey and a 2020 3rd round draft pick
Cole won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh the past two seasons, but was dealt to Ottawa as part of a trade for former Jacket Derick Brassard over the weekend. The Senators reportedly told Cole not to come to Ottawa, that they'd likely be moving him before the deadline, and the Jackets stepped in to add the strong depth defenseman. Speculation mounted that the move was a precursor to trading Jack Johnson, but that didn't happen. Cole paired with David Savard on Monday, upping both the blueline depth and the team's beard game.
Thomas Vanek for forwards Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen
Jokinen was a recent waiver acquisition and Motte had been on the Cleveland to Columbus shuttle all year, so in the end it's a small price to pay for the veteran goal scorer. Vanek's days as a marquee scorer are behind him, but on a team struggling to score goals, his presence will be welcome (he did not arrive from Vancouver in time for Monday night's game).
On one hand, it's the definition of “depth adds” at the deadline, but on the other, all three players are still producing and give Head Coach John Tortorella some additional ammunition, not to mention lineup decisions, as the team enters the season's closing stretch.