The Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks are two teams that certainly intrigue me ahead of the March 1 trade deadline.
The Blue Jackets have energized their loyal fan base with a dominant first half of the season, and I wonder what else they could possibly add to a team that already has the goods to not only win the franchise's first-ever playoff series but perhaps go beyond that.
Anaheim? I think the Ducks were wondering themselves how they would respond after a disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs last season. GM Bob Murray was keeping the window open for them to contend, but for how long? Well, the Ducks are playing terrific hockey, leading the Pacific Division and proving they're back as Cup contenders.
So what now for these two teams?
For one, I don't believe Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will allow himself to get intoxicated by the excitement of the moment and deviate from the long-term plan. This is still a young team. Yes, of course he will try to add someone before the March 1 deadline, but I think any impactful moves Kekalainen makes will be to help the Blue Jackets both for these playoffs and beyond. So, you can most likely bet against Columbus going after any high-priced, rental players.
But I do think the Blue Jackets will try to improve their team. One potential area is at center, for the right price, in whatever form that might take. I also think the backup goalie position is something the Blue Jackets will monitor moving forward. They don't want starter Sergei Bobrovsky to get overworked down the stretch.
Columbus parted ways with veteran backup Curtis McElhinney on waivers last week because it felt it needed an upgrade in that area and first wanted to see how youngsters Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo could do when they each took turns backing up Bobrovsky. It might be that either one of those youngsters does well enough to give Columbus confidence it has found its man behind their starter for the stretch run. But if the Blue Jackets feel they need a more seasoned hand as the backup, they could hit the trade market before the deadline.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are in a position that any other team would envy when it comes to their defensive depth throughout the organization. Never mind how good their NHL blue line looks; they have prospects other teams are calling about, such as Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour and Jacob Larsson. "Honestly, those two guys, Montour and Theodore, they'd already be full-time NHLers on any other team in the league,'' said a Western Conference scout this week.
Now, it's not going to be easy to pry one of those kids out of the Anaheim organization, but teams certainly have called and will continue to try. The thing is that the Ducks can't keep all their defensemen because the system doesn't allow teams to horde talent forever. So whether it's one of their NHL guys or one of the kids, it wouldn't shock me to see them listen to trade offers that would net them an impact offensive forward.
But for Anaheim to make any kind of trade, the money has to work too. The Ducks are right at the salary cap. So another team would need to be creative in order to make the money work. (Would a team take on, say, a $3.25 million-a-yearClayton Stoner to make a deal happen?)
I haven't heard of any talks between Anaheim and the Colorado Avalanche yet, but it seems likely that given the rebuilding Avs' urgent desire to find young, high-end prospect defensemen, they will reach out.
But there are lots of teams in desperate need of defensemen young or old (such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres), which will continue to make Anaheim a popular target. What's not clear is whether the Ducks will act before March 1 or wait until the offseason to make their moves.
Will Anaheim Ducks or Columbus Blue Jackets leverage their depth before the trade deadline?
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