The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to an ugly 0-6-0 start and sport an even uglier -17 goal differential, which is worst in the NHL and far off second-last place Calgary’s -9 mark. Things are so bad that GM Jarmo Kekalainen is reportedly considering both a roster shake-up via trade, and axing coach Todd Richards.
From Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts earlier today…
3. The word last weekend was [Kekalainen] wanted to make a trade before a coaching change, and he’s certainly trying. He’s looking for a defenceman who can make life harder on opposing forwards.
There are two problems. First, when you’re struggling, other GMs throw anvils instead of life jackets. Second, it can be very difficult to find trading partners this early. Most teams want to see what they’ve got.
Hi, yes. Paging the Maple Leafs?
Toronto is quite deep on defence – I mean, not that they’re actually good defensively, just that they have a lot of bodies. In fact, Frank Corrado hasn’t even been able to crack the lineup since being snapped up off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks a couple weeks ago. Since he’s waiver eligible, he’s literally sitting there doing nothing and can’t be sent down unless Toronto wants to risk losing him as easily as they got him.
You can’t tell me that, in a development year, the Leafs couldn’t afford to give up a defenceman and create a little space. It’s not like anybody but Mike Babcock and the players themselves are actually trying to win anything this season.
So who could the Leafs send over?
A lot of people are going to scream Stephane Robidas’ name, but let’s be realistic – the 38-year old is cooked. Besides being mysteriously on the IR, Robidas can’t turn around a miserable team (see: last season). It’s not going to happen.
More likely it’s Roman Polak that Toronto would dangle, and he seems like the kind of guy that can “make life harder on opposing forwards”. That may not entirely be true, but that’s certainly his reputation – a big, strong and fast blueliner with a defence-first skillset. The Blue Jackets also have the cap space to pay Polak for the remainder of the season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Now, I asked in the title of this article if the Toronto Maple Leafs could help Columbus stop sucking…
No, they can’t. But that doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter to the Leafs if Columbus stops sucking. All that matters is Columbus trades Toronto an asset (think a mid-round pick or B-level prospect) because they think Polak will help them stop sucking. And we’re talking about a GM who thought that trading for David Clarkson was a good idea, so it can’t be all that hard to convince him that’s the case. And hey, when Polak doesn’t help the Blue Jackets suck less, at least they can flip him again later this year to recoup that asset.
If the Leafs believe they can build Polak up to be a desirable trade deadline target and net themselves a bigger return, then maybe you don’t make the move now. I don’t see that happening though, so why not shed a little salary, ease the NHL-level logjam on the blueline, and pick up an asset? There’s no need to wait.