The Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off the stunner of the hockey year last night, completing the sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It wasn’t so much that Columbus pulled the upset on the 62-win Lightning, it’s that they utterly dominated the series and it was never even close. Tampa Bay got run out of the playoffs.
The obvious impact here is with the conditional pick to complete the Ryan McDonagh trade. The pick, which was to be a 1st rounder – 31st overall – if the Bolts won the Cup, will now be the 58th pick in the draft. Right away, the Rangers drop 27 spots in the draft with this result.
The Blueshirts also own the Blue Jackets’ 4th and 7th round picks as part of the Adam McQuaid deal. Despite popular belief – and this is also a mistake I made – these picks do not drop back as part of the upset. Those picks are locked in at #112 and #205. Of course, the Rangers do move back 13 spots from their own picks sent to Boston to acquire McQuaid in the first place. But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.
Perhaps the most significant impact is with that of Artemi Panarin. This is just conjecture at this point in time, but there is a chance that an expanded Columbus run impacts Panarin and his desire to leave Columbus in the offseason. This is a team that, based on how good they looked, can make a serious run. Both Toronto and Boston are flawed and can be exploited. If the Jackets make it to the Eastern Conference Final, or beyond, will Panarin want to leave a potential winning situation?
Something else to consider: The Blue Jackets showed to their players that they are willing to go all-in on a season. They traded their entire draft this June to acquire pieces that they believed would help them make a run. When you combine a run with the feeling that ownership and the front office believes in you, it’s tough to leave that situation. Would you leave your job if your bosses showed you that they believe in you, and then your group produces something that makes everyone happy? Not a direct comparable, but still food for thought.
The wild card here is the John Tortorella factor. He has this locker room. This is not Vancouver’s Tortorella. He certainly has his flaws, and his style may wear thin on veterans at some point, but boy does he have this team ready to run through brick walls for him. That could be the trifecta to keep Panarin in Columbus.
Also worth noting John Davidson, whom the Rangers are rumored to be targeting as President of Hockey Operations. Is he willing to leave that situation? This Columbus upset of Tampa may have been fun for some to watch, but it has already impacted the Rangers at the draft and potentially beyond.
We now turn our attention to the Winnipeg pick, which could be as low as 18th if they lose in the first round to St. Louis. That series is tied at two games a piece after Kyle Connor won Game Four in OT last night. There is also a watchful eye on Dallas, as their 2nd rounder this year (#49) would move up to at most #28 if Dallas advances to the Western Conference Final. They currently trail Nashville 2-1 with Game Four tonight.