Blue Jackets continue down curious path with Ivan Provorov trade
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Blue Jackets continue down curious path with Ivan Provorov trade

Nov 15, 2023

With no context whatsoever, the Columbus Blue Jackets' deal for defenseman Ivan Provorov is defensible.

Provorov has shown himself capable of logging big minutes in the past, plays a competent two-way game, is just 26 years old, and will have a cap hit of $4.725 million for the next two years.

He's a solid on-ice asset with a reasonable price tag, and the cost of acquiring him — the 22nd overall pick in the 2023 draft and a conditional second-round pick in either 2024 or 2025 — is within reason.

The Blue Jackets also desperately needed defensive help with Zach Werenski coming off a nasty injury, Vladislav Gavrikov gone, and Erik Gudbranson ranking third on the team in average ice time last season.

Provorov makes Columbus better, but that doesn't mean this is a good trade for the Blue Jackets.

The veteran defenseman is under contract for just two more years, which makes this a win-now deal for Columbus. Considering the Blue Jackets won just 25 games last season, it's tough to see a short-term road to contention for this group.

The Blue Jackets have some star power with Werenski, Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine aboard — as well as a strong prospect pool — but this group is lacking quality up and down the lineup. Their top two centres, Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic, would be bottom-six players on many teams. Their crease is a mess, with Elvis Merzļikins — signed through 2026-27 with a $5.4 million cap hit — coming off a disastrous season. The blue line is well below average even with Provorov in tow.

In a world where Columbus won the draft lottery it could be considered justifiable to accelerate the team's timeline, but Connor Bedard isn't coming to Ohio.

Provorov will help the Blue Jackets win games over the next two years, and this team should improve in that time, but it seems unlikely they'll do so enough to make this deal make sense.

The 22nd overall pick they're giving up isn't a massive prize, but since 2005 it has yielded impact players like Claude Giroux, Max Pacioretty, Jordan Eberle, and K'Andre Miller, as well as solid NHLers like Olli Maatta and Kasperi Kapanen.

Columbus needs the chance to get homegrown players of that ilk more than it needs a defensive upgrade in seasons that it's likely to miss the playoffs. The second-round pick is more of a lottery ticket, but if the Blue Jackets continue to struggle it could be a valuable selection.

Trading futures for established NHL talent is a great idea if you're the Tampa Bay Lightning, but right now Columbus should be hoarding picks, not using them as trade chips.

As questionable as this trade is from an on-ice perspective, it's also comes with off-ice red flags considering Provorov's boycott of the Philadelphia Flyers' Pride Night last season. With the Blue Jackets reportedly on the verge of hiring Mike Babcock — whose dubious motivational tactics are well-documented — the culture being built in Columbus seems less-than-ideal.

In most cases, when you have a young team that's not particularly close to competing for a Stanley Cup — with a number of blue-chip prospects on the way — it's wise to prioritize adding draft picks, finding a developmentally-focused coach, remaining patient, and building a cultural foundation.

Instead, the Blue Jackets have just made a win-now trade that cost them valuable futures and picked a head coach infamous for completely mishandling a young star at his last stop.

Columbus is likely to take a step forward next season, but that's mostly due to the incredibly low baseline the team set in 2022-23, not because the franchise is on the right track. The offseason is still young, but the Blue Jackets are off to a bumpy start.