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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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