Alexander Texier, Eric Robinson, Jakob Lilja, Kevin Stenlund, Ryan MacInnis, Dean Kukan, Sonny Milano, Gabriel Carlsson and Andrew Peeke.
These players will all be skating regular minutes tonight and over the next few weeks for the CBJ as the injuries have piled up. Team leading scorer, Bjork, has just been added to the IR and likely out 4-6 weeks. Columbus will find out very quickly how bright the future is going to burn.
While Tex, Robinson, Peeke (both of late), Kukan and Milano have all seen regular time this season only Milano has seen regular NHL minutes prior. I believe this is the Core 2.0 and could mean a very bright future. They will get an NHL crash course together.
Currently the CBJ is on a 4-game winning streak and taken points in each of the last 7 games. They have played leap-frog back an forth with the Rangers for the sixth spot in the Metro. Both play tonight and with a Jackets win and Rangers loss, Columbus claims that spot. Any other combination of outcomes results in the Rangers entering the Christmas break as #6. Columbus also sits just 7 points out of a wild card spot and 8 points from the #3 spot in the division.
I have advocated for help scoring all season. This team is also very young up and down the line up with little in the way of veteran leadership that has playoff experience. Columbus also has a wealth of salary cap space. As recent play has shown, this team can win. They will be over .500 entering 2020 and could go either direction as the season progresses. A trade that would add salary would be detrimental if they don't challenge for the playoffs, but could prove to be the spark they need to do so.
Enter the Chicago Blackhawks. They are in need of shedding salary as DeBrincat's salary jumps from $700k to $6.4M next season, Strome needs re-signed and both goalies will be UFAs come the summer of 2020.
Patrick Kane would obviously be a great addition to any team in the NHL but would come at a very steep price. It would likely send Jones, Anderson and some draft picks in the other direction. I don't believe that Columbus would pony up that price.
But, there is another player on that roster that has playoff experience, has been a proven scorer and has a high enough salary that CHI would dump the contract for a reasonable return: Johnathan Toews. His cap hit is $10.5M per season and he could be moved for quality defensive players. While several of them are suffering from injury at the moment, Columbus has an abundance of quality back-end players. Any combination of Savard, Gavrikov, Carlsson, Kukan, Murray, Nutivaara or Peeke could be moved. I would propose something like this:
Savard & Nutivaara
Murray & Kukan
Some picks may be necessary to balance out the value, but these would be the basis for the trade. You could slot Carlsson, Gavrikov or Peeke in there as well, depending on who CHI is favoring.
This trade would free up cap space for the Blackhawks, relieve the log jam of talent on the CBJ blue line and provide the CBJ with a veteran C among a very youthful set of forwards.
As for Tonight's Game
The Islanders sit at #2 in the Metro with an impressive 23-8-3 record (49 points). They are 3-1-1 in their last 5 (Two wins in OT and a SO loss to ANA on Saturday) playing three OT games in that span. NYI are the lowest scoring of any of the current playoff eligible teams (103 goals for) and the best in the NHL in goals against (88) over 34 games.
The combination of NYIs low GAA and the CBJ scoring struggles makes me believe that Korpi will be key to the CBJs chances tonight. This shapes up to be a 2-1 game, probably with OT involved.
Once back from break the CBJ will face WSH (road), CHI (home) and FLA (home) to close out 2019. Mark your calendar for Dec 31 as Bob will return to NWA. The crowd will be raucous for that one for sure.
Happy Holidays, Good Luck and Go Jackets