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Columbus Blue Jackets Injuries, Rumor Mill Dominate Early Season Storylines

Mathieu Olivier #24 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates his goal with teammates during the third period against the Montreal Canadiensat Nationwide Arena on November 17, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have won three of their last four games and earned points in all four.  These improvements come as injury concerns continue and trade rumours begin to swirl.

Columbus Blue Jackets Early Season Storylines

Make the Injuries Stop

The injuries continue to mount for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since the November 10th, 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, the news has been bleak on the injury front. Three of the Blue Jackets’ top six defencemen left that game due to injury. Zach Werenski sustained a season-ending shoulder injury, Erik Gudbranson an upper-body injury, and Nick Blankenburg a fractured ankle and is out six-eight weeks.

In the 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders on November 12th, forward Patrik Laine suffered a sprained ankle and will miss three-four weeks. This is Laine’s second trip to the injured list this season.  Already beginning to resemble their AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets lost two more regulars in Tuesday’s 5-4 OT win over the Flyers. Defenceman Jake Bean went down with an apparent shoulder injury and is out indefinitely. The club has not announced specifics, but Bean will likely be out for a significant time.

The team had better news on goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.  The club announced the struggling netminder, helped off the ice in the second period, will be out of the lineup for one to two weeks with a lower-body injury. Bean and Merzlikins join Werenski, Blankenburg, Laine, defenceman Adam Boqvist (broken foot, out six-eight weeks), Justin Danforth (shoulder, out for the season), and Jakub Voracek (upper body, out indefinitely) on injured reserve. According to the website CapFriendly, the Blue Jackets now have over 33 million dollars on the injured reserve list. Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours. Perhaps Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen can shuttle players from Cleveland on an ark.

Chychrun Rumors, Again

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Is Kekalainen considering some moves that might help save the Columbus Blue Jackets season? Anything is possible, and a name still linked to Columbus is Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jacob Chychrun. In the summer, Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reported that the Coyotes and Blue Jackets made a deal at the draft, but Chychrun vetoed the deal despite no-trade protection.  Now, the 24-year-old defenceman is ready to return from injury, and interest is picking up again. The Fourth reports that the Blue Jackets are among several teams interested in acquiring Chychrun. The asking price has dropped, but Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong is still after a significant return. It will be interesting to see if this develops since the Blue Jackets need help on defence.

A New Name

A new name linked to the Blue Jackets is Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat. There is talk of a rebuild in Vancouver, and Horvat may not be part of their plans and may be available in a deal. It is no secret that the Blue Jackets have coveted a #1 center since inception. The signings of Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine have made acquiring a #1 center an even bigger priority for GM Jarmo Kekalainen.

With the slow start to the season, does Kekalainen let the club take its lumps and potentially draft phenom Connor Bedard, or does he make a move for a more established player with a proven track record? Horvat will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and may be finished in Vancouver, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman lists the Blue Jackets as an interested trade party.

Interest Growing in Gavrikov

One Blue Jacket beginning to draw interest is pending UFA defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov. The Fourth Period reported this week that the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, and Los Angeles Kings are potential suitors for Gavrikov. Playoff teams want top-six defencemen like Gavrikov, who can be a shutdown defender and chip in offensively, as evidenced by his two game-winning OT goals this season, including Tuesday against the Flyers. Were Kekalainen to trade Gavrikov, it would signal the Jackets are all in to enter the Bedard sweepstakes. If the Blue Jackets continue to struggle, Gavrikov could be on the move at the trade deadline or sooner.

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