Please just humor me. I'm making the assumption that Parise would consider coming to Columbus. So it all hinges on that. If I'm crazy, just tell me.
As it stands right now, the Jackets have $22.9 Million in cap space. Assuming they resign Boll, Nikitin, and Johnson, they'll have roughly $20.0 Million left in cap space. They'll have about 6 other lower-level UFA's and RFA's to resign and let's say that comes out to $4.5 Million (which is a VERY high estimate). That leaves them with $15.5 Million in cap space. Assuming they'll sign 4 rookies this year at an average of $600,000 for a total of $2.40 Million, that leaves them with $13.1 Million in cap space to go shopping. Obviously goaltending is still an issue and the Jackets will either trade some low round or future picks to get one or pick one up through free agency. Regardless, a quality starting goaltender in the league is going to cost roughly $3.0 Million. Leaving us with $10.1 Million in cap room.
My question is this. Why not go after Zach Parise? He'll likely pull in offers around the Rick Nash range of $7-8 Million. The Jackets can afford that. Why not sweeten it with $8.5 Million because I doubt many, if any team will offer more than $8.0 Million (because most can't afford that number)? $8.5 Million would make him the 7th highest paid player in the NHL in 2012 (8th when the Pens resign Crosby) which is more than Rick Nash and is pretty much inline with what his stats would garner. Sign him to a 5-7 year deal.
Assuming the Jackets are able to do this and convince Nash to stay (if he doesn't, then so be it, we can get more picks, another prospect, and maybe a goaltender), the Jackets can now focus on filling out the defensive lines by drafting Ryan Murray. Making the lines look like this.
1st Forward: Parise (signed through 2017 hypothetically) - Brassard (signed through 2014) - Nash (signed through 2015)
2nd Forward: Umberger (signed through 2015) - Johansson (signed through 2013) - Atkinson (signed through 2013)
3rd Forward: Prospal (signed through 2012) - Letestu (signed through 2012) - Dorsett (signed through 2015)
4th Forward: MacKenzie (signed through 2013) - Russell (signed through 2012) - Boll (hypothetically signed through 2013)
1st Defensive: Johnson (signed through 2015) - Wisniewski (signed through 2015)
2nd Defensive: Tyutin (signed through 2015) - Nikitin (hypothetically signed through 2014)
3rd Defensive: Murray (hypothetically signed through 2014) - Methot (signed through 2014)
And in reality, the Jackets could look to trade away Methot or Tyutin if they do bring in Murray and that would free up $3-4 Million in cap space. Plus I don't see the Jackets resigning Prospal after 2012 so there's another $2.5 Million in cap space. Moral of the story, the Jackets would have assets to trade to free up cap space so they can bring in Parise, a quality goaltender, and resign key guys like Johansson, Atkinson, and Letestu when their contracts expire. Even more space gets freed up if Nash is traded. If that happens, the Jackets will likely get a scoring line forward or they could move Atkinson to the 1st line, move Prospal to the 2nd line at RW, and then fill in the gaps from there.
Regardless if Nash is traded or not, the Jackets should still be able to afford a quality goaltender plus offer Parise a huge incentive for signing with Columbus. If they're willing to pay Jeff Carter $6 Million+ for 5 years, they should be able to offer Parise $8 Million+ for 5 years.
Anyway....if I wasted anyone's time by reading all of that then I apologize. But I started looking at the numbers and it started to make sense. Quite frankly, if by some miracle the Jackets front office can pull that off, those lines that I just put up take the CBJ from the basement of the NHL to a solid playoff team......and the beauty of it is they would have to trade a single player (unless they trade picks for a goaltender).