The Columbus Blue Jackets have become irrelevant on every front including locally. This, just months removed from a historic sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the trade deadline on they were one of the most talked about teams in hockey a season ago. Some of that had to do with the acquisition and then subsequent exodus of particular players, but still, they were talked about on a national level.
Currently the Jackets have 26 points in 29 games and sit 4th from the bottom in the East, 11 points from the last playoff spot. They are 7 points from catching the Rangers in the Metro. Even a 4 or 5 game points streak wouldn't change their position in the standings at this point. Columbus is starting to lose touch with teams in the playoff race. This is not good for attendance, for continuity on the coaching staff, for moral in the locker room and for attracting free agents in the future.
The coveted 'core' has been a bit exposed without the supporting talent surrounding them. It begs the question: How good is this core of players? To be clear here we are talking about PLD, Werenski, Atkinson, Jones, Bjork and Anderson. Some would include Murray, Nutivaara and Jenner in the 'core' group too. There are younger players pushing these core players for playing time and decisions may need to be made.
Is it time to break up the core?
PLD, Bjork, Jones and Werenski are all still improving. The closest to reaching their max potential in that sub-group is Jones. He has great leadership, plays in all zones really well and is a calming presence on the ice. He is a guy you build a team around. Not that I think there is even consideration, but the CBJ, under no circumstances (unless its for McDavid) should trade Jones. Werenski and PLD are close in that category. I don't think I need to say anything about Zach. He and Jones should be on the CBJ blue line for many years to come without question.
PLD is a heart-and-sole-guy that also has talent. Think "Ryan Getzlaf lite". Look at Getzlaf's number early in his career:
Getzlaf 2005-2006: 14 goals, 25 assists, 39 points
PLD 2017-2018: 20 goals, 28 assists, 48 points
Getzlaf 2006-2007: 25 goals, 33 assists, 58 points
PLD 2018-2019: 27 goals, 34 assists, 61 points
We all know the impact that Getzlaf had on the Ducks and the NHL in general. He also had a strong supporting cast that PLD is lacking this season. This is a guy I would lock up long-term with his next contract.
Bjork is on a very team friendly contract this year and next. His talent level has a closer ceiling that those named above, but I don't believe we have seen his top production yet. He is a top line guy that Columbus should keep in the Union Blue unless there is a guaranteed return.
Cam, Jenner, Anderson, Nutivaara and Murray. We all know what is going on with Cam and Anderson. Neither can find the back of the net, but Jenner has 6 goals and has become a guy that Torts has really relied on this season. For his price tag and leadership, he is invaluable. I do think he has reached the top of his game. His leadership will keep him on the ice night-in-night-out but other players are going to catch him talent-wise very soon.
Nuti and Murray carry a very favorable price tag. They serve there purpose. You need guys like this on your team. But you need them to be healthy. Kukan has looked very strong and Peeke is coming for a spot on this blue line sooner rather than later. Both could be expendable, but less likely for Nuitvaara as he is still an RFA.
Let's talk Cam and Anderson. Cam is 30 years old, had his best scoring season last year with 41 goals (CBJ record, tied with Rick Nash) and consistently puts up 40+ points. While his goal scoring is down (only 5 goals), he is on pace to have 40+ points again this season. But is he on the upswing or already plateaued? If this season is really lost and there is a year or two to rebuild, does the CBJ get their value out of Cam by trading him? His contract is team-favorable with a hit less than $6M for 5 additional years (until 2025). It's something to truly consider.
Anderson was protected by Jarmo during the Vegas draft. David Clarkson's contract, a 2nd round pick in 2019 (Samuel Fagemo by LAK) and 1st round pick in 2017 (Kristian Vesalainen by WPG) were sent to Vegas in exchange they select William Karlsson rather than Anderson or Korpi in the expansion draft. There is little to compare when you look at the production of Karlsson vs. Anderson, but few saw that coming especially as quickly as it did. Having given up what they did to protect Anderson and understanding he has not reached full potential, would there be value in trading him? He will be an RFA with arbitration rights, but his stats (especially this season) don't scream PAYDAY. He has scored 20+ goals (last season) once in his career, although amassing 17 (2016-2017) and 19 (2017-2018) in previous seasons. To me, his value is on the ice for CBJ. Likely return for him would be high draft picks and/or prospects which are always a gamble.
Shopping Cam this season wouldn't shock me. It also wouldn't shock me if he is part of marquee trade deadline deal. However, the ask for him would certainly be VERY high, meaning that his future as a Blue Jacket is almost certain.
CBJ schedule doesn't get any easier this week with three road games against WSH, PIT and OTT. This is an ill timed road trip given the CBJ are in the midst of a 4 game losing streak. Outlook isn't good for the near future.
Good Luck and Go Jackets