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Blue Jackets GM Reportedly Still Not Happy With Sweeney

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NHL Trade

Reports that Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen feels like he was left hanging by Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in trade talks for defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov won’t go away.

On February 14, the Blue Jackets pulled Gavrikov from the lineup for the first of what would be (In the eyes of the Blue Jackets), an unexpected eight days due to ‘Trade-Related’ reasons. Within days, numerous reports had the Boston Bruins as an NHL betting odds on favorite to land Gavrikov with a trade in place pending some salary cap maneuvering to be done by Sweeney.

Instead, nine days later, the Bruins acquired defenseman Dmitry Orlov – along with winger Garnet Hathaway – in a multi-player and draft picks trade that included the Minnesota Wild as a salary cap broker on Feb.23. There likely wasn’t much, if any, NHL betting on that happening but it did, and Kekalainen was left at the NHL trade alter without a trade.

“I’m sure the player (Gavrikov) is disappointed and so are we,” Jarmo Kekalainen said after Gavrikov sat out his eighth game on Feb. 28. “We would have never taken him out of the lineup unless we had an offer on the table. But now it doesn’t make any sense to put him back in there when there’s one game left before the deadline. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

With what they reportedly thought was ‘more than a verbal agreement’ with the Boston Bruins, the Blue Jackets turned their eyes west and found common ground with the Los Angeles Kings. On March 2, Kekalainen sent Gavrikov, along with goalie Joonas Korpisalo to the City of Angels in exchange for goalie Jonathan Quick, a conditional first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

However, according to Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman, Kekalainen still feels wronged by his former teammate. As Friedman noted, that could lead to some uncomfortable conversations face-to-face between not just Sweeney and Kekalainen, but multiple NHL general managers at the upcoming NHL GM meetings.

“One of the general managers was saying to me [Sunday], that there may be some real stink-eyes in that get together,” Friedman said in the latest 32 Thoughts podcast. “He told me that it doesn’t involve him because he never had anything that was really close, but he said there’s a number of situations around the league where teams felt they got burned. That something was either verbally agreed to, or as we talked about with Columbus-Boston, the Blue Jackets certainly felt there was more than a verbal agreement there on Gavrikov, and they were able to get their first round pick somewhere else.

But someone said there were a few of these. There were teams upset about the [Jakob] Chychrun process; there were some teams upset about the [Timo] Meier process; there was the Gavrikov process – and again, I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, I’ve heard various bits of information on both sides – but, the noise Jeff [Marek], is definitely there. It will be interesting to hear or see when some of these people get together and see each other face-to-face, are there any conversations about that.”

Friedman then pointed to the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline though, when the NHL voided the trade between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Anaheim Ducks that would’ve sent then-Golden Knights forward Evgenii Dadonov and a second-round pick to the Ducks in exchange for Ryan Kesler’s contract and former Boston Bruins defenseman John Moore.

“The league has a very simple rule, and this reared its head again with the whole Dadonov thing a couple years ago between Vegas and Anaheim, and Ottawa, it’s not a trade until we have it in central registry, it does not exist,” Friedman reminded everyone. “But like I said, one manager said to me that there are certainly a group of people out there that feel that the way conversations happened this year was not the way that they should’ve happened. Again, I’m not saying they’re right; only the people involved, know who’s right, but there are definitely hard feelings around the league and it involves more than one trade. It involves two or three.”

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