In this abnormal COVID impacted NHL season, a schedule quark gave the CBJ an opportunity to quickly climb the standings and measure their quality shortly ahead of the trade deadline.
This 4-game set versus the then division leading Carolina Hurricane provided the Jackets 5 points. Not bad. They secured 4 points in two extra-time victories to kick off the series. With two more opportunities they could make a significant move in the division and prove to themselves, management and the division that they were going to make a playoff push.
They fell flat in game 3 losing decisively and battled but ultimately came away with only one point in the finale. What is even worse, Carolina ended up the better of the two teams in the series netting 6 points (2-0-2).
Again, Columbus could see hope, they had a two-game weekend set against the Red Wings. Absolute disaster. That is all that can be said about those two games. The Jackets find themselves firmly in 6th place in the division, Nashville having righted the ship and surged past both them and Chicago. With only 20 games remaining and the trade deadline looming on April 12 they Jarmo has some tough decisions to make.
Inconsistency has plagued this team all season. Laine has just 3 goals in his last 20 games. While the CBJ don't seem eager to fire Tortorella, it is almost certain he will not return next season. For the month of March, they are 5-5-3 with one game remaining. Given their woeful February, playing .500 hockey will provide them an early summer vacation. The schedule does not get any easier. Between now and the end of April the CBJ will see Tampa 6 times and Florida 4.
Seven games are between here and the trade deadline. Of those seven, four are against TBL and two are against FLA. My guess is by Saturday Jarmo will realize that this is the season Columbus is a seller at the deadline.
An interesting sell
In an earlier post I discussed what moving one of the two goalies could mean for the Jackets. With other teams need goaltending and Columbus having two better-than-average, young tenders, it makes sense to move one. A friend made the argument to me last night that the move to make with CBJ goalies is to trade Elvis, and I submit that argument.
First, Elvis has performed very well under pressure. While he had a rough start in 2019, when he was pressed into service for the injured Korpi he performed as a #1 goalie would be expected. Some would say better than average posting a .923 SV%, 2.35 GAA and 5 shutouts for the season. Playing only 14 games this season his numbers have worsened to a .913 SV%, 2.86 GAA and one shutout. As we saw in 2020, when he gets consistent playing time, he plays more consistent or even at a high level.
Second, Elvis isn't a rental. He has an additional year on his current contract. His salary cap hit is only $4M, which is great for a starting goalie, good for a tandem and okay for a quality back up.
Last, he is exempt from expansion draft. That means that any team that would trade for him could protect their current goalie and essentially protect their goalie tandem. With his talent, that brings exceptional value to a trade.
Would he return Nugent-Hopkins from Edmonton? It’s a possibility. Edmonton would then have two goalies under contract for the remainder of this season and all of next with a cap hit of $8.5M and both would be protected from the expansion draft. RNH is also an UFA after this season (rental) that may or may not re-sign in Columbus. My thought is that Columbus may want a player with contract term rather than RNH.
My assumption is that Jarmo will get the message and begin putting price tags on his assets. I think it isn’t beyond possibility that we see Savard, Del Zotto, Merzlikins and Laine move. There could also be a bigger deal to be had if one of Seth Jones or Zach Werenski were made available...
Good Luck and GO JACKETS!