Former OHL standout Kerby Rychel has played only 16 games in Columbus since being selected 19th overall by the Blue Jackets at the 2013 draft. This season alone he’s played 11 games and registered three assists, but he averaged less than eight minutes of ice time per game. According to a report, he’s unhappy with his playing time and has asked for a fresh start to his professional career with a new organization.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reported Sunday that Rychel, 21, asked for a trade before the season began. The Blue Jackets haven’t obliged to that request, but Portzline added the Rangers, Flames, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Ducks, Bruins and Red Wings have all expressed interest in acquiring the young power forward.
It’s not overly surprising that Rychel is looking for a new locale, especially considering how prepared he looks for full-time NHL duty. In the AHL, Rychel has been a force for the Lake Erie Monsters when he has suited up. He has played 20 games for the Monsters this season and has five goals and 18 points. Rychel was no slouch in 2014-15, either, netting 12 goals and 33 points in 51 games as a rookie in the minor league.
Rychel has been the center of trade talk for some time in Columbus, but it was thought that any trade involving the winger would be due to the logjam of young forwards on the Blue Jackets roster. According to Elite Prospects, Columbus currently falls 24th in average age on their roster at 26.67 and it’s not hard to see what Rychel is up against on the left wing. Ahead of him on the depth chart are Matt Calvert, Boone Jenner, veteran Scott Hartnell and off-season acquisition Gregory Campbell. That’s not to mention Sonny Milano, a standout for Team USA at the World Junior Championship, is also a left winger.
If Rychel were to flip wings, it gets even harder. The Blue Jackets have Brandon Saad, Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno clogging up the right wing, with prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand playing in Lake Erie. That’s not to mention high-priced David Clarkson plays the right side, and the Blue Jackets aren’t exactly a team that can afford to bury his salary.
The Blue Jackets’ season is all but lost and the horrible start to the year is largely to thank for the bleak outlook for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign. However, a playoff-less year does mean there’s a good chance Rychel could be packaged and shipped out at the trade deadline for an even bigger haul. Columbus doesn’t need a massive rebuild, but dealing Rychel could bring back some assets that could help the club in a few years. It might be best for both player and team to acquiesce to Rychel’s request.