The trade deadline is approaching and there has been speculation for months surrounding the Blue Jackets with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.  The Jackets have had an up and down month and a half recently.  They snapped their 5-game skid Tuesday with a 6-3 win over the free-falling Avs and a 4-2 win last night over the Coyotes.  They were 6-2-0 in their previous 8 games before that losing streak.  They are currently 3rd in the Metro Division with 63 points, tied with Pittsburgh with a game in hand.

After seeing what happened the last off-season with the Islanders and Tavares, it’s understandable why they would be hesitant to have that happen.  However, the Jackets are a good team and if they avoid the last wild card spot, they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.  I understand why some would think they should trade them.  If you are convinced that both are not coming back, then you can probably get a good return for them.

For Panarin, I’m leaning more towards keeping him and just going for it this season.  With him being a rental, they probably won’t get fair value for him anyway.  If you come across as desperate to get something for him because you think he’s gone, other GM’s in the league could take advantage of that and the return might be even lower.  Yes, it would be better than nothing and that’s fine if they go that route, but if a few things go right for the Jackets, he’s good enough to help take them on a run.  Columbus has all the pieces right now, they have two of the best defensemen in the league in Jones and Werenski and they’re top line with Panarin, Dubois and Atkinson have been dominating this year.  That line has been 55% or higher in all On Ice shot/goal numbers this season and they’re all producing over or just under a point per game.

With Bobrovsky, there’s a little more uncertainty with how he will play.  His play and health are probably the biggest questions for the jackets on whether they will go far or not.  Bobrovsky at his peak is an elite goaltender but the questions are starting to come up of whether he can get back to or stay at that level for very much longer.  He will be 31 at the start of next season and has had several lower-body injuries for years now.  For someone who’s main skill is his lower body strength and athleticism, it’s not going to be easy for him to stay at a high level.  So, it might be smart for Columbus to explore trade options with him if there are teams that still value the two-time Vezina winner very highly.

It’s a complex situation for the Jackets to be in right now.  It’s tough to decide whether to trade them or not because you don’t want to lose them for anything, but you also don’t want to move them when you’re a good team that could make a run with them.  The way I see it, do they want to bet on Bobrovsky having a good final stretch and playoffs.  Given what we’ve seen so far it will be risky, but we’ve also seen a lot of goaltenders get hot at certain points and Bobrovsky is capable of doing it.  If I had to choose which one to keep, I would obviously say Panarin.  However, the two Russians appear to be really good friends so if one goes, the other might eventually go to.

Like I stated earlier, it’s a tough decision and it will come with a lot of risks, but I think it could be a risk worth it to take.  Given the way, the Jackets roster is constructed and where they are in the standings, they are in a good spot.  There’s not a huge difference between them and the other top teams in the Metro and if they stay away from the Atlantic bracket, they could potentially go on a deep run, and they need Panarin and Bobrovsky to do that.

THE STARS AND WILD NEED TO BE BUYERS AT THE DEADLINE.

The Dallas Stars have been playing good hockey over the last few weeks, going 10-5-2 since the Christmas break.  With the gong show that is the Western Conference wild-card race, they sit 3rd in the Central with 61 points, 6 points ahead of the 9th place Canucks.  The Wild went 8-4-0 in January to pull away a little bit but haven’t had the greatest start to February, going 0-2-2 in their first 4 games, they currently sit in the first wild-card spot.  Both teams are in a similar situation and have the same problems.  If the playoffs started today, they both would be playing Winnipeg or Nashville in the 1st round, and the way the playoff picture is starting to shape up, if they make the playoffs, those two will most likely be their opponents.

Winnipeg and Nashville are both top 10 in GA and they are also top 10 in GF.  The Dallas Stars haven’t had a problem keeping the puck out of their net this season as they are 2nd in the league in GA.  Both Bishop and Khudobin have had great seasons and the Stars defense has held up so far.  The major problem for them is that despite being 2nd in GA, they are 29th in GF.  Outside of Benn, Seguin, and Radulov, their forward depth evaporates.

This is a screenshot from an article from @ThePointHockey on twitter from January 30th, further showcasing a major problem.

Dallas will need to rely heavily on their top 3 guys down the stretch and even in the playoffs.  You can do that for different situations, but over the final 28 games and in the playoffs, they are going to get burnt out by doing that.  If they play against either Winnipeg or Nashville that can role all lines, they’re not going to have a chance unless they get otherworldly goaltending.

Minnesota is in the same boat, they sit 11th in GA and just 25th in GF this season.  They play a lot more of a defensive style with the blueliners they have and with the defensive forwards that they have.  Their top line of Zucker – Staal – Granlund has been terrific at both ends of the ice and has no question been their best line this season.  However, they haven’t gotten consistent scoring all year and they were recently dealt a huge blow with losing their captain Mikko Koivu for the season with a torn ACL.

I don’t see a fit with any of the big targets like Stone, Duchene or maybe even Panarin, as I don’t think either team has or is willing to give the assets for them.  But if I’m the Stars or Wild, I’m looking at guys like Marcus Johansson, Gustav Nyquist, Derek Brassard or maybe Wayne Simmonds as rentals that they could go after to improve.  Nyquist has had a great offensive season for Detroit with 46 points in 54 games.  Johansson and Simmonds are both not quite the players they once were, but they will both be an upgrade for the Stars and Wild.

Dallas should be in their window of contention and Minnesota is closer to the end of theirs.  They have had trouble scoring all year and facing Winnipeg or facing Nashville with the D core that they have won’t make it any easier.  Parise and Suter are 34, Granlund is 26, Spurgeon is 29, Benn is 29, Klingberg is 26 and Seguin is 27.  Both teams should be making the most of their top players prime years and considering who their most likely opponents will be, they have areas on their rosters that they need to improve.  If they want to compete with and even upset those teams, they will have decisions to make as the deadline gets closer and closer.

 

All numbers are found from

www.nhl.com

www.naturalstattrick.com

www.thepointhockey.com