Straight Jackets: All in

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive
Matt Duchene

Well, crap.

That wasn’t exactly what CBJ fans had in mind for the first game after a trade deadline that found General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen making one thing abundantly clear: The Jackets are going for it.

“Going for it” got off to a rocky start on Tuesday, the Jackets falling to the hated Pittsburgh Penguins 2-5. None of the new guys showed particularly well, and there were a couple saves goalie Sergei Bobrovsky could have made, and the team in general looked tentative. In other words, a typical big game against the Pens.

The NHL’s trade deadline was this past Monday, but Kekalainen had assured the team was already the talk of the league over the weekend, bringing in two big-time forwards from the Ottawa Senators, center Matt Duchene and winger (and former Buckeye) Ryan Dzingel, in separate deals.

On Monday, Kekalainen addressed depth in other areas, adding goalie Keith Kinkaid (a terrific follow on Twitter, which might not be in any other scouting report you’ve read on him; @Blockaid1) and defenseman Adam McQuaid, who was a 2005 second-round pick of the CBJ, but reportedly declined to sign an entry-level contract with the team and was thus traded to Boston, where he was part of a Stanley Cup-winning club in 2011. Not a big fan of guys who stiff the hometown team, but the rugged blueliner should add needed depth. (Also, reports are his dad dug out an old CBJ jersey, took a photo of himself wearing it and sent it to Adam, which is kinda funny, so…)

There’s one thing all four players the Jackets acquired prior to the deadline have in common: All are Unrestricted Free Agents after this season. They join the much-discussed pair of Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin as players who could leave the team this summer. Of course, the hope is Duchene can be convinced to sign long-term here, and Dzingel, with his Columbus, ties might also. And, who knows, if the team goes on a deep run in the playoffs, maybe Bread can be convinced, too?

Ultimately, Jarmo will be judged on the results, not on his bold activity at the deadline, in which he not only acquired players on expiring contracts but traded away all but two of the team’s remaining draft picks for 2019. This deadline and, by extension, this season, will now be judged on three things.

First, how far the team advances in the playoffs. After Tuesday’s loss, the Jackets are actually out of a playoff position. But they have games in hand and a dramatically improved roster on paper. Can the team step up come playoff time?

Second, how many, if any, of the pending UFAs decide to re-sign here long-term. Most fans have written off our two Russians, but are hopeful about Duchene and particularly Dzingel. Bringing some of them back would mitigate the loss of draft picks.

And, as to the draft picks, can Jarmo make some moves that return some picks to get the team back into this year’s draft and at the business of keeping the cupboards stocked?