Blue Jackets Deadline Approach: Rent-To-Own

At the NHL's trade deadline, there are buyers and sellers, and there are the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their approach may best be described as "rent-to-own."

The CBJ today made a deal to acquire Ottawa Senators center Matt Duchene, who is one of the most high profile pending free agents in the league.

"He was the guy that we had targeted, the number one guy for our needs, and that's why we're willing to take the risk that he would be just a rental," said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. "It's the cost of doing business."

Duchene, 28, has 27 goals and 31 assists in 50 games played this season. He has scored five times on the power play, and so could improve a unit that ranks 28th in the league.

More than all that, though, his presence indicates the Blue Jackets are going for it this season.

Virtually all year long, Columbus has been dealing with talk about how the team would handle its own impending free agents, winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The chatter increased when it became clear that neither player seemed particularly interested in negotiating a long-term deal with Kekalainen before they hit the open market.

However, it seems unlikely that the team would hedge its bets by sending Panarin and Bobrovsky away and simultaneously take the risk of dealing for Duchene.

Indeed, the early reporting seems to indicate that the Blue Jackets are pushing their chips to the center of the table.

 

And Kekalainen has hinted that is his mindset. "We still have time to make additions, to make improvements," he told Fox Sports Ohio after making the move for Duchene.

It should be noted that losing the trio to free agency isn't the only potential peril the Blue Jackets face.

There are no guarantees this roster makes the postseason, and if they do?

Panarin has done well there with 4 goals (including 2 game winners) and 11 assists in 17 playoff games.

However, Bobrovsky's struggles are well chronicled. He gives up one more goal per game in the playoffs (3.49) than in regular season games (2.49). Duchene, meanwhile, has not played for the most successful of teams. Thus, he has 712 games under his belt, but only 8 postseason contests and has yet to score his first playoff goal.

Still, Kekalainen sees reason to take this chance. Like Bobrovsky and Duchene, the Blue Jackets are looking to erase past struggles. They have yet to win a playoff series.

"We want to prove to our fan base that we're serious about winning," Kekalainen said. "And we're in it to win it."

And if they do win? Well, perhaps they can convince their rentals to stay in the town where they own a piece of history.

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