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ANALYSIS: Duchene trade proves again Kekalainen not afraid to make moves

Blue Jackets GM nabs one of the top players on the market

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

While speculation has run rampant all season what the Columbus Blue Jackets will do at the trade deadline, Cam Atkison put on his general manager's hat during interviews Friday at Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre. 

"I think our mindset from the top down is we have a team to do something special and we're not just going to give away players, especially our two best players (Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky), for nothing," he said. "So, if that's the case, we might as well load up and go for it." 

Whether Atkinson was plugged into his general manager's thinking at the time is up for speculation, but it sure seems like he and Jarmo Kekalainen were on the same page. 

The Blue Jackets have traded for one of the biggest fish on the market leading into the trade deadline, acquiring Ottawa center Matt Duchene for prospects and picks Friday mere hours before taking on the Senators.  

Kekalainen has never shied away from big moves in his tenure as Blue Jackets general manager, and this might be the biggest of them all -- and among the riskiest, analysts believe. 

READ MORE: Columbus Blue Jackets Trade Deadline Central

With Panarin and Bobrovsky unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, the thought by many around the league is the Blue Jackets should unload both rather than be empty-handed at the end of the season. 

Instead, the Jackets have acquired a third key player who can hit the open market this offseason. Duchene could, of course, re-sign, and more moves could also be on the way before Monday's 3 p.m. deadline. 

But for now, Kekalainen has helped shore up one of the biggest question marks on the Blue Jackets' roster, the center position. Duchene, who just turned 28 and has been a target of the Jackets for some time, has been a consistent point producer in the NHL, with averages of 25 goals and 60 points per season in his career. This year, he's piled up the points with Ottawa, totaling 27 goals and 58 points in just 50 games, all while winning 55.1 percent of his faceoffs. 

He also bolsters the team down the middle, where the Blue Jackets have been beset by injuries and struggles at times and must match up with teams like Pittsburgh and Washington for any playoff run.

The team's No. 1 center all season, Pierre-Luc Dubois, has been fantastic but is just 20 years old and has struggled with faceoffs, while Boone Jenner has moved to center this season but has battled injuries of late and Alexander Wennberg has just two goals on the year. Adding Duchene shores up a position where the Blue Jackets have been looking for added depth pretty much all season. 

"We have a good team and we want to win this spring," Kekalainen said. "We want to win. We want to prove to our fanbase that we are serious about winning and we are in it to win it. Like I've said 31 teams are starting the season thinking they are going to win the Stanley Cup. That's what we want to do. That's our goal. This gives us a better chance at it." 

Time will tell what more will come in the last handful of days before the deadline. But today's move shows two things: Kekalainen wasn't about to shortchange a team he believes is built for potential playoff success, and the Jackets general manager has proved yet again he's not afraid to make a big move at the deadline. 

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