February 21, 2018 | 10:05pm ET
TheFourthPeriod.com

BLUE JACKETS COULD KEEP JOHNSON

 
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Jack Johnson, defenceman

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made it clear there are not interested in giving defenceman Jack Johnson away for a second- or third-round draft pick.

If a team is willing to cough up a first-round pick and another asset for Johnson’s services, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen will strongly consider it. Anything less and you’re likely wasting his time.

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday, Kekalainen admitted to exploring the marketplace ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, and revealed his intentions with respect to Johnson.

“When this debate started about Jack wanting to be traded, we said that we’re not just going to rent him out to another team for an insignificant future piece,” Kekalainen told the paper. “What’s that really going to do for our future, to take a way a big piece like Jack is on our defense – a strong, physical, warrior type of guy? But if the return is like you’ve seen on some rentals like (Martin) Hanzal last year, we’d have to think about that.

“If somebody offers a third-round pick (for Johnson) and that’s the best deal we’ve got? If that’s all somebody’s offering us for Jack, we’re not doing anything.”

Kekalainen admitted he is willing to move prospects and draft picks for both short-term and long-term assets, if the deal made sense, but trading away a first-round pick seems unlikely.

“We’d like to help the team, obviously,” he said. “But not at any cost, where we make sure we put all our marbles in one basket this spring and make the playoffs – that’s not the goal for this organization. 

“There could be a prospect that’s a reasonable price for somebody that’s a rental. A first-round pick was already in a trade last year. We don’t want to make a hole – that’s two years in a row. To me, that creates a huge hole in the depth chart, if you trade away your first-round pick two years in a row. I don’t think that would be wise for the future of the organization. That could be the price of a rental, as we’ve seen it in the past. The Hanzal trade to Minnesota was for a first and a second last year.”

It appears Columbus’ priority is to add a top-six goal-scorer to the roster – they’d like a top centre, but such an ask seems almost impossible at this time of year – and the team will continue to weigh its options leading up to the deadline.

The Blue Jackets have been linked to the likes of former captain and current New York Rangers winger Rick Nash, Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty, among others. All three players rank on TFP’s Top 30 Available Players List.