Winter ’14 Eyes on the Enemy: Columbus Blue Jackets

"Eyes on the Enemy" is a continuing bi-annual series on the NY Rangers Blog giving fans updates on the Rangers closest rivals. Part 1 of the Olympic version of 'EotE' will focus on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Any contract figures listed below are courtesy of 

Standings: 29-24-5 (25 ROW) 1 point behind Detroit for final wild card spot; 3 points behind Philadelphia for 3rd in Metro Division.

Record vs. NYR: 2-1-0 (NYR @ CBJ  3/21)

Available Trade Deadline Cap Space: $3,998,229

Columbus entered this season by moving to the Eastern Conference via re-alignment after having finished just a point outside the Western Conference playoff picture a season ago. Coming off Sergei Bobrovsky's vezina winning season in addition to getting a full season out of Marian Gaborik and acquiring UFA Nathan Horton, was supposed to guide Columbus to their second postseason appearance in their history. Things haven't exactly gone the way fans expected back in October, but not everything has had a negative impact.

Forwards Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen have not only blown well past career highs in scoring they have been the unsung heroes for the Blue Jackets this season, replacing Gaborik and Horton's production in their absences. Johansen's 24 goals and 46 points lead the team comfortably in both categories and have probably made Glen Sather at some point wonder why he didn't inquire about the 21 year old and his $870K cap hit when negotiating the Gaborik trade.

It's probably still premature to discuss which team, the Rangers or the Blue Jackets, truly got the better of the two blockbuster trades between the clubs. To summarize from the Blue Jackets perspective, Brandon Dubinsky leads the Blue Jackets in assists and has become the de facto captain of the team. Artem Anisimov was supposed to be re-united on the top line with Marian Gaborik but two separate injuries have kept the sniper on the sidelines for most of the season. Tim Erixon has only 2 games under his belt in Columbus and has been assigned to the AHL and recalled a combined 9 times since the start of the season. Kerby Rychel, taken with the first round pick the Rangers gave to Columbus, was involved in a mid-season OHL trade and has 64 points in 43 games.

Looking towards the trade deadline, it's tough to gauge whether or not the Blue Jackets are going to make any significant moves beyond moving Gaborik as a rental which sounds like an inevitability at this point. The Blue Jackets were a sub .500 team heading into the 2014 calendar year before catching fire at the start of January, winning 9 out of their first 10 games before cooling off some heading into the break. If GM Jarmo Kekäläinen plays his cards correctly, the return Gaborik would fetch in a trade should not only keep the Blue Jackets competitive this season, but make them an even better club in the immediate future.

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