The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Columbus Blue Jackets (35-23-3) did nothing but add. They’ll face the Metropolitan Division rival Pittsburgh Penguins (32-22-8) tonight at Nationwide Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for shortly after 7:00 PM ET.
Just five days ago, the Blue Jackets were coming off back-to-back losses against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, sitting in fifth place in the Metro.
That’s when CBJ general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made arguably the biggest splash of the trade deadline and pulled the trigger on a move to acquire Matt Duchene from the Ottawa Senators.
But Jarmo wasn’t done there.
The club acquired former Ohio State Buckeye Ryan Dzingel a couple days later, made a deal for goaltender Keith Kinkaid on deadline day, then capped it all off trading for defenseman Adam McQuaid.
Aside from Anthony Duclair, who showed flashes of skill but had his fair share of frustrating moments, the cost was a bunch of draft picks and a couple of prospects. Sure, could be a lot to give up for a group of players who may all leave in free agency this summer, but the message it delivers to the dressing room, the fans, and the rest of the league is a strong one.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are no longer content just making the playoffs. The Jackets want the Cup.
Amidst the slew of additions, perhaps the biggest surprise was the decision to hold on to Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.
The CBJ are all in.
In a division with first through fifth place separated by seven points, the Jackets were really the only ones to make a splash.
The division-leading New York Islanders stood pat. The Washington Capitals were pretty quiet. The Carolina Hurricanes remained flat. The Pittsburgh Penguins arguably made the biggest moves adding some defensive depth.
Speaking of the Pens, they come to Nationwide Arena with a two-game losing streak and have dropped 7 of their last 11 contests.
A pair of players to keep an eye on for Pittsburgh are Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. Phil Kessel comes into tonight’s game riding a 12 game goalless streak, while Malkin has tallied five goals in his last five games.
The crowd at Nationwide Arena was electric on Saturday night when the CBJ shut out the San Jose Sharks in Matt Duchene’s first home game in Columbus. With their rivals in town and their new look and loaded roster deployed, expect a playoff-type atmosphere at NWA tonight.