Blue Jackets expected to pay big price to limit expansion draft damage

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The trade freeze for teams adjusting to the upcoming Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft is coming at 3 p.m. ET today, prompting some fans to wake up early. Some might be feeling anxious by a “lack of” deals … but the smoke might not really clear even on Saturday.

Potential Golden Knights fans would be wise to wait and see what GM George McPhee is cooking, as it sounds like he could command quite the ransom from teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Blue Jackets could pay a serious price to keep Vegas from taking a key player who they won’t be able to protect:

The Jackets are believed to be trading this year’s first-round draft pick (No. 24 overall) and a prospect (not Pierre-Luc Dubois or Sonny Milano) to Vegas for assurances that the Golden Knights will select either left wing Matt Calvert, center William Karlsson or defenseman Ryan Murray.

Vegas’ acquisition of the contract of injured veteran forward David Clarkson ($5.25 million salary cap hit) may also be part of the deal.

Ouch.

Portzline reports that the Blue Jackets would pay such a premium to make sure that the Golden Knights look past either a young player (Josh Anderson or Joonas Korpisalo) or an experienced blueliner such as Jack Johnson or David Savard.

Too much or a justified expense?

Let’s take a step back for a second and ponder some of the names involved.

There’s no denying that Ryan Murray has experienced a bumpy climb to the NHL, one made exponentially tougher by a staggering array of early injuries. Still, if you’re the type of person who has even a passing interest in possession stats, it’s tough to digest the idea that Jack Johnson would cost the Blue Jackets Murray.

Granted, there are key notes. Getting rid of David Clarkson’s albatross contract in a potential trade certainly sounds refreshing. And, while there’s sticker shock involved with a first-rounder being thrown in a potential trade, at least it’s the 24th pick in a widely panned draft.

Ultimately, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen must ask himself an obvious-yet-difficult question: is it all really worth it?

We won’t need to wait long to learn his response.