Throughout the past week, there has been talk of the Blue Jackets looking to add another top-six winger. Of course, they missed out on Matt Duchene but their interest in him was well known and now that he’s been dealt, there isn’t another big name that’s rumored to be available.
Frank Seravalli’s Trade Bait board over at TSN is usually a pretty solid indicator of who could be on the move. Right now he has two wingers at the top of his list, Evander Kane and James Neal.
I’ll start with Neal, who’s off to a good start with the Vegas Golden Knights. Neal checks a lot of the boxes that the Jackets are looking for; he can skate, has a physical edge and is a volume shooter. While he would look good, I’m not sure if he’s a fit.
First off, I think the Jackets are looking for more of a long-term fit and Neal, whose contract is up at the end of the year, would likely be more of a rental. Would the Jackets want to pay a hefty price for half a year of James Neal? Doubtful. But on the other hand, with the likes of Jenner, Atkinson, and Bjorkstrand all up at season’s end, maybe having some financial flexibility would be a good idea.
The Golden Knights are also loaded with defensemen and wouldn’t want to add another one. That’s a problem because one of the biggest trade chips the Blue Jackets have is defenseman Ryan Murray.
Evander Kane is the other name Seravalli has listed. Obviously, Evander Kane is more known for his behavior off the ice, but if the Jackets can look past that they might be able to add a really strong forward.
Kane already has 9 goals this year and he’s been one of Buffalo’s best forwards. In terms of 5v5 possession, he ranks 3rd in most categories and he faces the second toughest competition amongst all Sabres. He’s also proven that he can contribute to the power play, an area the Jackets could use some help. His 5.04 PPP/60 would rank second the Blue Jackets behind only Sonny Milano.
The price might be high, and similar to Neal, Kane’s deal expires at the end of the year.
Other names on Franks list include David Perron, Tomas Vanek, and Rick Nash. None of those names really seem like a dream fit and as I mentioned earlier, with a lot of players needing raises come July, the Jackets need to be careful with how they handle things.
The type of player they might be looking to acquire may not actually be available right now, given how many teams are still in the playoff hunt. I wouldn’t expect Jarmo Kekalainen to make a move until the new year, at the very earliest.