Columbus Blue Jackets’ centre situation is worth watching


Look long enough at the various players who might potentially available to the Edmonton Oilers at centre, and eventually the name Artem Anisimov comes up. He fits the direction of the organization – he’s big, he’s young, his underlying numbers are pretty good. He plays for a team in Columbus that has a surplus of talent up the middle.

Most importantly, though: He’s one of the few cases where there is also logical reason to think that there might be a change in his status as we get closer to training camp.

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Naturally, this is all hypothetical stuff. It’s possible the Jackets are perfectly content with Boone Jenner on the wing or plan to play Brandon Dubinsky there, possible the Oilers have other targets in mind, possible, too, that the team has resigned itself to betting on Leon Draisaitl and Mark Arcobello and just hoping for the best.


The big question for Columbus is what happens with the Ryan Johansen negotiations. The most recent news came via The Columbus Dispatch’s excellent Aaron Portzline, who wrote the following on August 3:

Two weeks ago, it was reported in this space that… [Ryan Johansen’s camp]… was willing to accept a “bridge” contract. That left one hurdle between the player and the club: money. The two sides were believed to be at least $3 million apart per season on a two-year deal at that point, and it doesn’t appear that much progress has been made. Asked this weekend if they were still far apart, one of the interested parties responded via text: “Hectares.”

Johansen’s situation is going to be worth following, because from here it looks like one with real holdout potential.

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Johansen has draft pedigree (2010 fourth overall pick), and the frame (6’3”, 223 pounds) and scoring (33 goals, 63 points in 2013-14) of a potentially elite centre. He just turned 22 in July, and his camp has a lot of reasons for thinking he deserves a big payday.

On the other hand, his strong 2013-14 season was preceded by two thoroughly mediocre ones and he’s just come off his entry-level deal. The Blue Jackets have many reasons to think that a modest bridge contract is deserved here.

Having Anisimov on hand gives Columbus leverage. With Anismiov, Dubinsky and Jenner (and the oft-overlooked Mark Letestu) they could theoretically enter next season with Johansen still on the sidelines and be in decent shape. Certainly, the club wouldn’t want to make a move (if ever) until it was confident that Johansen was going to be good-to-go at the start of next season.


Craig MAcTavish5

In his July 1 press conference, G.M. Craig MacTavish suggested that it might take until September or October for Edmonton to figure out their centre depth chart. There aren’t a lot of good reasons to wait that late, if it’s at all possible to do something beforehand. Anisimov is one of the few players who might possibly shake loose at that point in time but who probably isn’t available in trade at the moment.

He’d certainly be an awfully good fit for the Oilers if he became available. He’s 6’4” and 200 pounds, and at age 26 he’s still in the heart of his career. He plays in all situations (including the penalty kill), produces offence and is paid pretty modestly for two more seasons. Too, Edmonton executive Scott Howson traded for him once before.

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Better still, if the Oilers were to move a significant roster player from the wing in trade, they’d likely be able to secure something resembling a replacement via free agency. It’s mid-August and we’re still waiting for players like Dustin Penner and Devin Setoguchi to find homes.

But then, that’s all hypothetical. Columbus could move Dubinsky to the wing or leave Jenner there. The contract dispute with Johansen might drag out into the season. The Oilers might opt to just roll the dice on with what they have.

It’s just an interesting situation to keep an eye on.


  • jt in Oilertown

    Keep seeing the Draisaitl argument about rushing a prospect. This is maybe an argument for defence prospects and middling to late first rounders. But top 5 picks should be competing for a spot in today’s NHL. Look at Belov, or Monnahan or Coutouier top 7 picks all excelling in their first couple years.
    Plain and simply if Drais is not ready he won’t make the team but if he is it will not hurt his development. The game has changed and so have these kids.

  • Randaman

    It looks to me like McDavid will be our next #2C. Nobody wants to trade value for value in Oiler land. You people are delusional if you think Arc is the answer. Even short term

    • The Last Big Bear

      What are you talking about? Arco is the answer if we are going for a McDavid.

      You’re absolutely right…these people that think we won’t finish 30th with Arco playing 2C are completely dillusional. Drives me nuts! But they’ll come back and say he had great advanced stats.

      • oilerjed

        Jumping in.

        I know he is not a center, but is Burrows not an example of a player nobody thought would make it until he played two season with the Sedins. Even then there were doubters.
        What is your argument for Acro not being able to play 2C and be successful?

        Developed properly- check
        Work ethic- check
        good numbers in AHL- check
        good defensively- Check

        Any raw player is going to have to prove themselve and not all do it on the 4th line. I dont see any reason why he cant be used at a minimum as 3c and prove all the doubters wrong.

        • Randaman

          My GOD!!. Once a player becomes an Oiler they have to be here for life it seems as nobody wants to trade anybody to improve this sad sack group. 30, 30, 29,27. Wake up people. Arc is probably a very nice guy and a pretty damn good AHL player but that is it. Do you want play-offs or lottery??

          • oilerjed

            Your not making any sense, only repeating yourself. Who said anything about not trading anybody??
            If you are going to reply try at least to answer at least one of my questions. You seem VERY sure that ACRO is a bust(well not a bust as we didnt draft him or spend anything to get him). Lets hear your reasons why. You dont really have enough info to prove your point one way or the other as far as I can see.
            If there is a legit center to bring in lets hear it. So far there has only been mediocre centers at free agent prices and trade rumors that havent had a hope in hell of happening.

          • Randaman

            Point #1 – In the Western conference, SIZE matters. I don’t care about Calgary or Vancouver but San Jose, L.A. & Anaheim will eat him alive.

            Point #2 – Anisimov was the main topic of conversation here so he is who I feel is a great fit with Yak and to help Drais take #3C instead of being force fed #2C

            Point #3 – Nobody wants to trade Yak, Perron, or Eberle, even if the return is comparable salary wise or talent wise. I have been trashed every time I mention trading one of these players so don’t tell me nobody said anything against this option.

            We desperately need a #2C and history tells me that the braintrust are hoping and praying instead of actively pursuing that need.

        • The Last Big Bear

          I don’t think Arco can do it because
          a) he’s too small
          b)just not good enough
          c) sometimes AHL talent doesn’t equate to NHL talent.

          I really liked Arco to be honest…he did work hard and was good defensively. Last year didn’t matter though because we were going to suck either way. This year I’m hoping to take a step forward and I don’t believe we can do that with Arco. As good as he was last year, he could not have played on a playoff team. He is a good guy to have on the farm to call up for 10-15 games in the case of an injury. More than that and you are destined to be a bad hockey team.

          Now I know the advanced stats guys are gonna jump down my throat because I haven’t proven my theory with numbers. I don’t care! I don’t need numbers to back me up here because I have seen him play. There are no stats you can throw out that are going to make him an NHL centre.

          • oilerjed

            So a player who was holding his own, on a terrible line, with less then 1/2 a year of experience is a total write off?
            A) he is far from being the smallest player in the league, what makes him different?
            B)Your perception, fair enough
            C)how do you know until he is given a chance? Any other player putting up those kinds of numbers in the AHL(not junior mind you) and getting that kind of reviews from their coach would be sure to get a long look for NHL employment. Wouldnt they?

          • Randaman

            He held his own for about 10-15 games. After that he disappeared…though his I’ve time was cut. I think (again, just my opinion) that he’s too small for our division and to play 2C behind Nuge. If we had 3 other big centers it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Also, I don’t put a lot of faith in AHL numbers. Anton Lander can rip it up down there too. I think Lander is better than Arco. But I don’t think either is good enough from what I’ve seen.

          • Do what Weight did?

            Can we at least agree that nobody KNOWS how Arco will perform this year, if he beats out Leon and Lander for the 2C spot?

            I get that you’re convinced he isn’t big enough, or good enough. I agree that his size is a significant obstacle to overcome. As far as how good he is, could or will be? Well that remains to be seen. His play last year was, by my eye, good. Not spectacular, but good enough to suggest that, if nothing else, he could maintain a comparable overall contribution to the guy filling the 2C spot last year. Less offense than snowpants, but a when you factor-in faceoffs and defensive play, it’s not a huge downgrade in my books, and many have suggested Arco over Sammy is an upgrade.

            As far as AHL talent and numbers translating to the NHL, you’re statement is factually true: sometimes AHL talent doesn’t equate to NHL talent. But the guy only has 42 games in the NHL, playing in a variety of roles, in front of some of the worst D and Goaltending in the league. Let’s recall that when Arco was our 2C last year, Dubs couldn’t stop beach ball. His AHL numbers, I believe dictate that he has earned more of a look. At least we can be confident he’ll have good wingers in his line.

            What I did love, is that after he got sent down, he lit it up. Used it as motivation, worked his butt off, and did exactly what you would want him to do. I also think that an Ivy League degree (not sure if he graduated, assuming he did) says something about his character. He knows how to work, and overcome obstacles. And he’s smart. All things I’d like on my club.

            And besides, if Leon shows in 9 games that he’s ready, then Arco can be our 3C instead.

            So, in anticipation of your response, let me just clarify a couple things: 1. I’m not saying that Arco is a premiere 2C or the next Marty St. Louis. That’d be cool, but I’m not expecting it. He could still have value as a C on this team, at a minimal cap hit. 2. No advanced stats were used in the creation of this post. It’s all my opinion and observations. The only stats I’ve used are games played and I also looked up his AHL pts and games played. Check them out – he’s just shy of 2 pts per game at that level. Enough to warrant a longer look. 3. As I said at the start, nobody can possibly know what will happen next year. I think there’s some risk in going with Arco and Leon – not the least of which is what happens if Nuge gets hurt – but not enough to warrant getting rid of a player like Perron in August. If Arco proves you right, and he’s the reason were gonna miss the playoffs, deals can still be made.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Agreed, none of us know how he will perform for sure…but my opinion is that he is an AHL player. I don’t think he’s much of a downgrade from Gagner…I’d say a small one but not much, but I don’t think we had a shot at playoffs with Gagner either.

            I get what you’re saying about him deserving a look…but I think that’s going to be the difference between talking playoffs and talking bottom 5-8 teams in the league. When guys like Arco get a shot, we won’t be good. Just my opinion. I like a lot of things about him, work ethic included…but I just don’t think he’s good enough. Again, if we had 3 other big centers it might be doable…but not with the mix we have.

            If he turned into the next St. Louis I’d be the first to admit I was wrong…and go buy his jersey! But that’s not going to happen.

            I agree that getting rid of Perron is crazy right now…I wouldn’t do that either.

  • The Last Big Bear

    If he’s even available, I would not trade, Eberle, Perron, or Yak for Anisimov . He would be a decent addition in view of what is out there.

    The trade I would make is Petry. He is long gone and will not resign next year. In the meantime you pick up someone like Jamie McBain for $1.1 per season ie: DelZotto money.

    McBain plays 20 min per game, and had good numbers in Carolina. Buffalo, not so good, but then who did.He’s in his mid 20’s.

  • Zarny

    It really comes down to expectations for this season.

    With their current depth at C the Oilers have no hope of contending for a playoff spot.

    Arcobello is smaller than Gagner, didn’t make the NHL until he was 25 and for all the talk about his great start last year he had a grand total of 0 G while riding Hall, Eberle and Perron’s coattails. Rookies that have made an immediate impact in the NHL have all been outstanding skaters (Hall, Duchene, MacKinnon etc) and skating has been identified as a weakness for Draisaitl.

    To think either Arco or Draisaitl will be impactful players is absolutely foolish and borders on the same insanity that led some to think Dubnyk was a bona fide starter, Smid was a legit top 4 D or that Schultz and/or Petry could play at a 1-2D level. We’ve seen the results of hoping for the best and they are flat out fugly.

    Like most a bigger trade for Johansen or Couturier would be preferable but I don’t see that happening. Mostly because I don’t think MacT is willing to part with the talent needed to pull off a trade like that.

    Anisimov is a very likely target for the Oilers. I’d prefer Dubinsky but I doubt he’s available after signing an extension. Howson’s connections give the Oilers a pipeline to CBJ and could facilitate a deal.

    Perron is more than I’d want to give up for Anisimov but as Mr. Willis has commented it’s a dilemma. With an injury to Nuge the Oilers could have the worst C lineup in the history of the NHL.

    If the Oilers are serious about moving the needle up the standings they need to make a move. If Katz is ultimately satisfied with rolling the dice with what they have prepare yourself for another disappointing season. It will be better than last year simply because they won’t start 4-15-2 but it won’t be good. It won’t even be in the vicinity of average.