Jason Brough

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 31:  Kevin Reich #30 of Team Germany stops a shot by Jesse Puljujarvi #13 of Team Finland in a preliminary round game during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships at the Bell Centre on December 31, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Team Finland defeated Team Germany 2-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Could the Blue Jackets really trade the third overall pick?


When the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Seth Jones from Nashville, they got a young defenseman they badly needed.

There was just one, big catch — they had to give up 23-year-old Ryan Johansen.

So while the trade left the Jackets considerably better on the blue line, it also left them without a future number-one center. And everyone knows that teams that don’t have a legitimate number-one center don’t win Stanley Cups. It’s why the Predators made the deal, for that exact reason.

Not to suggest the Jackets made a mistake in getting Jones. Teams without a number-one defenseman don’t win too many Cups either. And at the time of the trade, Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen knew he was going to get a good draft pick this summer.

“We’ll look at our depth chart a little differently today and moving forward,” he said. “We’ll be looking at all our options.”

Fast forward to the present and there’s speculation one of those “options” could be trading the third overall pick — the pick they won in the lottery — and taking a center a few spots later.

That would be rather significant, of course, since the third overall pick is expected to be Finnish phenom Jesse Puljujarvi, one of the so-called Big Three along with Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.

But Puljujarvi is a winger, and there are some promising centers available in the 2016 draft, like Logan Brown and Clayton Keller.

“I’ve told everyone who has inquired, you’d better blow my socks off before we get to any kind of discussion about it,” Kekalainen told ESPN Insider recently. “I’ve said this a million times, Wayne Gretzky got traded, so anything is possible. I don’t see it as likely.”

So yeah, it’s not “likely.” Puljujarvi has so much talent it would be hard to trade the pick, no matter what the return.

Just don’t be shocked if it happens, because it wouldn’t be coming out of nowhere.

Related: Pierre-Luc Dubois thinks he can be a ‘first-line center in the NHL’

UFA of the Day: Keith Yandle

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 16:  Keith Yandle #93 of the New York Rangers skates in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on April 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Keith Yandle

Not long after the Rangers lasted just five games of the postseason, their coach, Alain Vigneault, conceded that they struggled to move the puck in 2015-16.

Vigneault also called the decision on whether to re-sign Yandle a “tough” one — which made a lot of sense, because the 29-year-old defenseman was one of the better puck-movers the Rangers had.

Yandle finished the regular season with five goals and 42 assists. His 47 points ranked fourth on the team. His 20 power-play assists were the fifth most in the NHL among defensemen, tied with John Klingberg and Kevin Shattenkirk.

And that’s why Yandle will be such a hot commodity if he goes to market on July 1. The Boston Bruins, to name just one potential suitor, will almost certainly be interested, assuming they don’t fill their “transitional defenseman” need before then.

Back in January, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said, “Keith is a UFA who stands to do quite well in the market. I’ve had discussions with his agent and we’re gonna see how our team does, how we stack up, and we’ll figure it out from there.”

There’s been nothing much to report on a possible extension since then. And that’s led many to believe that Yandle will indeed test the market.

But there’s still time to get something done. The Rangers are reportedly willing to trade almost anyone on the roster, so their cap situation could change significantly before July 1. If Gorton could find a way to move, say, Marc Staal and his $5.7 million cap hit, that would help.

Related: What will the Rangers do with Yandle?

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

UFA of the Day: Loui Eriksson

Boston Bruins' Loui Eriksson is congratulated at the bench after scoring during the third period of a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders in an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Loui Eriksson

As of last week, the Bruins were still hoping to re-sign the 30-year-old winger who scored 30 goals for them last season.

“There have been some good discussions,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSN New England. “The onus is on us to display what level we’re willing to commit to Loui, and as he knows on the door to free agency that is important to him. It comes down to how far we want to stretch.”

After missing the playoffs, the Bruins’ decision not to trade Eriksson at the deadline will look especially poor if he walks away for nothing this summer. But Sweeney can’t allow that to affect his thinking. What’s done is done, and if Eriksson wants more than the B’s are comfortable giving him, then both sides will have to move on.

If Eriksson tests the market, Vancouver is expected to be interested. The Canucks intend to sign a top-six winger to either play with the Sedins or provide second-line scoring, and with Radim Vrbata expected to leave, there’s cap space to do it.

As always, the two big questions for any UFA suitor will be how much and how long? The latter will be particularly interesting with Eriksson, who’s already played 725 games in the NHL. On the open market, he could demand in the neighborhood of $30 million over five years. So while signing him could be good for a team in the short term, there’s at least the potential for trouble down the line.

So before July 1, that’s what the B’s have to determine — is he worth it, and what’s the plan if he’s not?

“If we don’t find common ground with Loui then we’re going to have to replace him,” said Sweeney.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

So, what are the Panthers going to do with Savard’s cap space?

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 27:  Brian Campbell #51 of the Florida Panthers scores a goal during a game against the Colorado Avalanche at BB&T Center on October 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

More evidence of a new era in South Florida was presented yesterday when the Panthers made a trade that was all about creating cap space, as opposed to taking it on.

Sending Marc Savard’s contract to New Jersey gave the Panthers additional room to sign some of its key youngsters, as well as improve a roster that’s been getting better but isn’t quite there yet.

From the Sun-Sentinel:

The Panthers, who also saved $2.5 million in the recent trade of defenseman Erik Gudbranson for Canucks forward Jared McCann, are expected to extend the contract of imminent restricted free agent center Vincent Trocheck. They also are expected to use the funds for a multi-year extension for [Reilly Smith], while also re-signing soon-to-be free agent defenseman Brian Campbell.

They should have enough space to land an upper-tier free-agent defenseman such as Jason Demers, Jacob Trouba or Kevin Shattenkirk.

Of note, Shattenkirk isn’t actually a free agent. He has one year left with the Blues. But his name has definitely been out there in trade rumors.

As for Campbell, it originally looked like the 37-year-old would test the market on July 1, but that no longer seems to be the sense.

The Panthers also have a couple of key next-summer RFAs in Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau, so interesting times indeed for new GM Tom Rowe and his staff.

Hey, remember a few years ago when it was all about getting to the floor?

Related: Signing Barkov shows ‘commitment’ to long-suffering Panthers fans

Two weeks before the draft, still no head coach in Calgary or Anaheim

Brad Treliving

In early May, when Bob Hartley was fired as head coach of the Calgary Flames, GM Brad Treliving insisted he didn’t have anyone lined up as a replacement.

Apparently that was no lie. More than a month later, the Flames still haven’t found their guy. In fact, they may not name a new bench boss until after the draft, which goes June 24-25 in Buffalo.

“We haven’t made a decision but we’re down to a short list,” president of hockey ops Brian Burke told Postmedia on Thursday.

“You’d like him in place sooner rather than later because we have a development camp (in early July) and you’d like him to look at the young players. But as far as being in place before the draft — that’d be nice but it’s not a top priority.”

The Flames are one of two teams that still have a coaching vacancy, the Anaheim Ducks being the other. It’s not known if both clubs have interest in the same candidate (or candidates), but it’s possible that could be delaying some decisions.

Via the O.C. Register, here’s the latest on Ducks GM Bob Murray’s search to replace Bruce Boudreau:

Murray can’t hire Jon Cooper but the way he talked glowingly about Tampa Bay’s coach, he wouldn’t mind finding another like him. Travis Green, a leading candidate, fits closer to that profile and has 970 NHL games that give him added cachet among those he’ll guide.

But is he the right fit for these Ducks at this time? Or is it [Randy Carlyle], the Cup winner who’s under strong consideration for another turn to pull off what he did in 2007. He fits the mold of the old hand who’ll ruffle the feathers of his players if it means getting the most out of them.

As assistants, Paul MacLean and Trent Yawney know this team but the longer Murray goes, the more you wonder if they’re really in the mix. And with the assistant coaching shuffle going on around the league, Murray will likely whittle down his list so those who’ve interviewed can go after openings elsewhere. Mike Yeo, formerly of Minnesota, fits that scenario if he’s not the one.

Not surprisingly, a few of those names have been raised as potential candidates for the Flames gig.

At any rate, it’s an enormous decision for both teams, so no surprise they’re taking their time. Remember that Treliving inherited Hartley, so this is a significant hire for him. With all the young talent that’s been assembled in Calgary, he needs his first pick for head coach to be the right pick.

As for the Ducks, they need a guy to get them over the hump, and soon. They’re contenders for now, but with that aging (and well-paid) core of theirs, let’s just say there’s some urgency in Anaheim.

Related: Canucks won’t say if Ducks have asked to talk to Green