NHL Trade Buzz: Blue Jackets could be sellers after recent struggles

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Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are seven days remaining until the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET; April 12). Here’s a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets appear destined to become sellers ahead of the deadline after going 1-5-0 on a six-game road trip that concluded with a 3-0 loss at the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Five points behind the Nashville Predators for the fourth and final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the eight-team Discover Central Division with 16 games remaining, Columbus’ streak of qualifying for the postseason in four straight seasons is in jeopardy. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the front office will have to make some difficult decisions about whether to trade some of the Blue Jackets’ potential unrestricted free agents, including forward Nick Foligno and defenseman David Savard, for pieces for the future.

Trading Foligno, the Blue Jackets captain, would be a significant and difficult step because of his importance in the locker room and the Columbus community. The Athletic reported that if the Blue Jackets decide to be sellers, Kekalainen will likely sit down with Foligno to go through the options with him, including if he wants to be traded and what teams might interest him. There would likely be a long list of those looking for his grit and leadership, including the New York Islanders, who lost captain Anders Lee to a season-ending knee injury, the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Savard would likely be coveted by teams seeking a top-four defenseman such as the Bruins, Panthers and Winnipeg Jets. Forwards Riley Nash and Mikhail Grigorenko and defenseman Michael Del Zotto could also draw interests as potential rentals for contenders because they can also become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.

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Washington Capitals

The Capitals’ decision on whether to acquire a veteran goalie for the Stanley Cup Playoffs became a bit cloudier last week when Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov had some rough patches. Each rebounded well with Vanecek making 22 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and Samsonov making 35 saves, including several highlight-worthy stops, in a 5-4 victory against the Devils on Sunday.

But even with those performances, Vanecek had a .879 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average in three games last week and Samsonov had an .831 save percentage and 5.14 GAA in three games. For the season, Vanecek leads NHL rookies in wins (15-6-3) and has a .907 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. In his second NHL season, Samsonov is 9-2-1 with a .896 save percentage and 2.87 GAA.

The Capitals also have veteran Craig Anderson, who played in two NHL games this season, on their taxi squad, but, barring injury, the 39-year-old does not appear to be a consideration for starting in the playoffs. So it will likely be either Vanecek, Samsonov or a goalie to be acquired in the coming week.

General manager Brian MacLellan said in March his thinking would be influenced by how Samsonov played after the 24-year-old missed much of the first two months of the season after spending time in NHL COVID-19 protocol. 

“We’ll monitor the goaltending situation here as we get closer to the trade deadline to see how they’re doing,” MacLellan said. “They’re both on track to play pretty well. I think it’s more playing it out here and as we get closer to the deadline, we’ll figure it out.”

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