FanPost

Upcoming Free Agents for the Jackets

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

With the last two day break remaining in the season (cool scheduling, NHL), I thought I would take a look at the upcoming free agents for the CBJ and see what everyone things might happen with those players.

RFAs

The most obvious free agent-to-be is Ryan Johansen, who is in his last year of his entry-level contract. The "bridge or bounty" debate was discussed here.

Either way, Joey's cap hit will go up significantly - perhaps even five fold. Obviously, the Jackets will re-sign him. The only question will be length of the contract and just how high that cap hit will go.

There are two other NHL forwards who are RFAs this offseason - Corey Tropp and Matt Frattin. The front office has spoken highly of Frattin and it's clear that Todd Richards thinks Tropp fits the Blue Jackets style of hockey. Both are making a modest ~$500K this year, but that would increase with a new contract offer.

For now, Frattin is buried on a team full of 3rd and 4th liners. Unless there is a trade or two to clear the way, I don't think he will be on the roster next fall. There are simply too many bodies ahead of him.

Tropp is a bit more interesting of a case. While the production hasn't been there since joining the Jackets, he is clearly impressing the coaching staff and front office. It wouldn't be too surprising to see him back in Columbus next year.

Not currently in Columbus - Oliver Gabriel, Jake Hansen, and Sean Collins all come off their entry-level deals and Dana Tyrell is another Falcon headed into restricted free agency.

The back end gets a bit more interesting. Jackets-Cannon-favorite Tim Erixon comes off his ELC and his current $900K hit. Perhaps the most-improved Jacket of the year, David Savard is also set to become a restricted free agent as is Dalton Prout. My best guess here is that one of these three guys will not be in Columbus next season - there are simply too many roster spots already tied down.

In addition, there are a lot of decisions to make on the blue line with the younger guys - Ilari Melart, Cody Goloubef, Will Weber, and Anton Blomqvist will all be RFAs as well.

UFAs

The only unrestricted free agents in Columbus up front are Derek MacKenzie and Blake Comeau. With the current logjam on the fourth line, it will be difficult to find both DMac and Comeau-ver starting spots next year, assuming management is going to stick with Jared Blol and his ridiculous contract at the RW spot on the 4th line. Unless a trade opens up a spot, I think Comeau may walk, but he has answered the bell this year as a relentless, physical forechecker.

Jack Skille and Cody Bass head into free agency this off-season as well. Other forwards under contract who will be UFAs are Paul Thompson and Carter Camper.

Along the blue line, both Nikita Nikitin and Nick Schultz are without a contract for next season. Given that the top two pairs look to be locked in (Tyutin-Johnson and Wiz-Murray), it is difficult to see both of these guys back in the Jackets sweater next year. Niktin has been inconsistent and Schultz has only recently been alternating scratches since the trade. One signs and one walks.

Not currently in Columbus, Matt Taormina, Patrick McNeill, and Frederic St. Denis will all be UFAs this summer.

It should be noted that both Curtis McElhinney and Mike McKenna are headed into unrestricted free agency.

As Mike noted in the Joey article, the Jackets have nearly $23 million for Johansen, a backup goalie, their third D pair (and perhaps a 7th defender as they have carried 7 or 8 much of this season) and a 4th liner or two.

Predictions?

Joey (obviously), Dmac, Tropp, Nikitin, Savard, and Erixon are mine. It's a wash whether they re-sign CMac or find a similarly-priced backup goalie for Bob.

I think Schultz, Prout, Comeau, and Skille (and perhaps some of the AHLers as well) will not be back.

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