All quiet in Columbus, as Rychel won’t discuss trade request

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Kerby Rychel, the Blue Jackets’ first-round pick (19th overall) at the ’13 draft, has been at the center of controversy over the last few weeks, thanks to reports he requested a trade out of Columbus.

This week, after being recalled in the wake of the Ryan JohansenSeth Jones trade, Rychel was asked about that request.

But he wouldn’t bite.

“I’m just here to play hockey,” Rychel said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “I don’t want to discuss anything like that right now.”

Rychel, 21, had apparently become frustrated with his lack of chances at the NHL level, having spent most of last year and this season with AHL Lake Erie.

While that frustration clearly didn’t affect his play — he had 20 points in 21 games with the Monsters this year, and was named to the ’16 All-Star Classic — rumblings about his trade demands were always front and center in Columbus.

At GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s presser following the Johansen-Jones trade, Rychel once again became a topic of conversation.

Q: Kerby Rychel requested a trade over the summer. I think he still desires one. How do you handle that? Is he officially on the trade market, or do you just soldier on and do what’s best for the Blue Jackets?

Kekalainen: Kerby Rychel requested a trade per whom?

Q: Per Kerby Rychel’s agent… per Kerby Rychel, period. Did he not request a trade?

Kekalainen: I’m just wondering where that’s coming from, that all. I’ll have the same answer as the Tampa Bay Lightning had [with Jonathan Drouin] — we will operate with the best interests of the Columbus Blue Jackets in mind, and that’s the only thing we’re worried about.

Rychel performed well in his first game following his latest recall, notching an assist in Saturday’s 4-3 OT loss to Carolina.

While his minutes were still low (just 11:14 TOI), it sounds as though he’s expecting to play a bigger role with the Jackets this time around — which would be his biggest role with the organization to date.

“By the sounds of it, me and [fellow recall Josh Anderson] are going to get an opportunity to play here,” Rychel said. “It definitely feels a bit different this time.”