After today’s signing of Patrik Laine, the Blue Jackets badly needed to create cap space. They’ve now done so, sending winger Oliver Bjorkstrand to the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick.
This trade is another example of just how difficult it is for teams trading established players to get large compensation packages in return. Bjorkstrand is a 27-year-old forward who just set careers highs in production in 2021-22. Bjorkstrand scored 28 goals and 57 points in 80 games last year, which ranked second on the Blue Jackets behind Jakub Voracek. Bjorkstrand’s contract is $5.4MM for the next four seasons, taking him to his age-31 campaign.
That’s a reasonable, affordable cost for a player like Bjorkstrand, which is perhaps why he’s the player Columbus had to trade. The trade of Bjorkstrand indicates that the team may have found there was not much appetite for their other highly-priced forwards like Voracek and Gustav Nyquistdespite Nyquist and Voracek each being productive and having less term on their contracts than Bjorkstrand.
For Columbus, this is a deal fans won’t be celebrating, but it’s also one they’ll understand as the cost of doing business at the top of the free agent market. The Blue Jackets landed perhaps the most talented player in their franchise’s history, Johnny Gaudreau, on a major contract earlier this month. It’s likely that seeing Gaudreau light the lamp repeatedly in Columbus will ease the pain of losing a reasonably-priced top-six winger for just two mid-round picks.
For the Kraken, adding Bjorkstrand at such an affordable asset cost is another solid addition for a team desperate to improve on last season’s lackluster scoring attack. With Bjorkstrand in the fold and free agent signing Andrei Burakovsky arriving from Colorado, Dave Hakstol will have no shortage of options for who he wants to flank his two highly-drafted young centers in Matty Beniers and Shane Wright.