The Columbus Blue Jacket have a huge hole to fill on their roster this off-season at the center position. William Karlsson was taken in the expansion draft and Sam Gagner left in free agency, so the bottom two center positions are left wide open. The Blue Jackets have already started to fill the position with multiple moves this off-season. Columbus has a lot of candidates for the center position, both within the organization and from outside it.
Columbus Blue Jackets Candidates For Center Position
Boone Jenner who normally plays left wing for Columbus is a likely candidate. This would be a last resort for the Blue Jackets. Jenner is naturally a left-winger and the Blue Jackets would like him to stay there. If Jenner does have to take over at center, Columbus would be in good hands. In the two seasons Jenner took over 200 face-offs he was 49 and 53 percent respectively in the circles. While this is barely above replacement level, it’s decent enough for a third line center. Jenner, however, is a main part of the Blue Jackets offense and would like to keep him at left-wing at all costs.
Lukas Sedlak played in 62 games with the Blue Jackets, collecting seven goals and six assists for 13 points. In his rookie season Sedlak was mostly a useful center in the bottom six. But with Gagner and Scott Hartnell both gone, who Sedlak played much of his hockey with, who will they play him with? Sedlak did take over 400 face-offs for the Blue Jackets and won 52% of them. Sedlak could be a young up-and-coming player for the Blue Jackets, but it shall remain to be whether last season’s play is a consisten level for Sedlak. This could be a position Sedlak could slide into quite nicely.
Pierre-Luc Dubois was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the third pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Dubois played in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles before being traded to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada this past season. Playing in 48 games between the two teams this season Dubois netted 55 points. Good enough for a 1.15 points-per-game average in the regular season. In the postseason Dubois continued his point-per-game season, earning 22 point in just 19 games. Dubois is who the Blue Jackets would want to fill this void. The Blue Jackets shocked the NHL by picking Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi and would like to be proven right. Dubois’ development camp and training camp performances will play a huge roll on whether the Blue Jackets can have faith in him going into next season.
Tyler Motte was acquired this off-season via trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. The second year player is coming off a rough rookie season, where he only scored seven points in 33 games. Motte however had a great senior season at the University of Michigan and that’s what has Columbus excited. With 58 points in his final season this shows why Motte could be a dark horse candidate to make the roster.
Whatever #CBJ current offer is, don't get the sense they'll "sweeten" it dramatically to get #Avs Duchene. They want him, absolutely …
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) July 2, 2017
Matt Duchene is currently playing with the Colorado Avalanche, where he has been the last eight seasons. The Blue Jackets would have to make a big trade for Duchene but the rumors have started to swirl. Columbus has reportedly made many attempts to get Duchene but the Avalanche and Joe Sakic are asking for too much. Duchene would be a great addition to the Columbus roster, scoring 40 points or more in his last five seasons. However, the Blue Jackets are not willing to mortgage the future on one player.
… but also a keen sense within #CBJ that current roster is good enough to compete in Metro, with plenty of time in-season for upgrades.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) July 2, 2017
If the Blue Jackets do get Duchene their top two centers would be a deadly combo. Alexander Wennberg and Duchene would be the top two which would likely send Brandon Dubinsky to the third line.
The Blue Jackets need for center depth is quite a glaring one. Columbus can also address the need in many ways. They can trade for a player like Duchene who they would have to give up a lot to acquire. However, Duchene would be an instant impact player for the Blue Jackets. They could also stay within the organization. Players like Sedlak, Jenner, Dubois, and Motte could be the solution they are looking for. If the Blue Jackets stay within the organization it would also mean that they wouldn’t have to give anything up either.
The future looks like it hinges on Sakic’s willingness, or lack thereof, to negotiate on whether or not the Jackets will go the route of Duchene or to use youth to fill voids for the second year in a row. Regardless of what happens, there are plenty of solid options to be had.