2017 NHL Free Agency Preview: Which forwards should Columbus target?

After the departure of Saad and Karlsson and the addition of Panarin, who else fits this roster?

With the start of the free agency period this Saturday, the Columbus Blue Jackets have a chance to further add to their roster. We’ve already discussed potential trades, such as for Ilya Kovalchuk and Matt Duchene. Which free agents could they pursue instead?

To start, I consulted the lists of top UFAs and RFAs from SBNation. Here are the forwards that jump out at me as ones that fit the Jackets roster (admittedly, some of these are less serious than others):

Joe Thornton, C, San Jose (UFA) - In Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column Tuesday, he suggested that the Blue Jackets are interested in Thornton, and that he would fit if they were truly all-in for the next two years. Personally, I’d be opposed to this signing for the simple fact that Thornton is way too old (38) and he’s coming off of a torn ACL and MCL (that he played through in the playoffs because hockey players are f***ing insane). In a radio interview, Friedman added that Thornton could be looking for a 3 year deal worth $5M-$7M. This price is WAY too high considering the risks. Columbus is a young team and they should focus on signing free agents without so much wear and tear.

Sam Gagner, C, Columbus (UFA) - Like Sam Gagner! This was such a great signing late last summer. Gagner was a 27-year-old former first round pick whose stock had plummeted after getting passed from team to team. By signing him to a one year deal worth just $650,000, Columbus made a low-risk, high-reward move. Gagner is still under 30 and fit well with the team, so I would not be opposed to re-signing him for 1-2 years. I predict that some other team will offer him either more money or a longer term than Columbus will, however. Scott Powers of The Athletic reported that Gagner and Chicago have a “mutual interest,” with the Blackhawks seeing Gagner’s PP production in Columbus as a replacement for what they’ve lost by trading Artemi Panarin.

Nick Bonino, C, Pittsburgh (UFA) - Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford is going to let Bonino test the free agency market. Pittsburgh will be motivated to match any offer, but making a move for Bonino could serve the double purpose of reinforcing the center depth with a player who has averaged nearly 18 goals per 82 games over the last 4 seasons AND it would remove a key player from an archrival. His cap hit last year was $1.9M, so he wouldn’t be terribly expensive.

Martin Hanzal, C, Minnesota (UFA) - Hanzal could be another good fit as center on the second or third line. He’s 30 years old and has a career 51.2 Corsi For percentage and 51.9 Faceoff percentage. He made $3.1M per year on his last contract, so signing him would take Columbus right to the cap after signing Wennberg and Anderson.

Marcus Foligno, LW, Buffalo (RFA) - I don’t honestly expect the Jackets to make offers on outside RFAs, nor do I expect Foligno to leave Buffalo, but how much fun would it be to bring in the Captain’s brother?

Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal (RFA) - Rather than an offer sheet, it’s more likely Montreal would trade his rights or negotiate a sign-and-trade. It had been rumored that Montreal did not see Galchenyuk as a center, whereas I think Columbus would happily play him there in a top 6 role, just 2 years removed from a 30 goal season.

Alexander Radulov, RW, Montreal (UFA) - Should Columbus add another Russian winger? Radulov scored 18 goals and 36 assists in his return to North America, but his price tag will be at least the $5.75M he was making this year, and that’s just too many rubles for the Jackets.

Jaromir Jagr, RW, Florida (UFA) - Sure, he’s 45 years old, but he scored 46 points and played all 82 games because he isn’t human. He can outplay opponents who were not even born when he won his first Stanley Cup. I want Jagr to suit up with every NHL team before finally retiring.

Which forwards, if any, do you think the Blue Jackets will pursue?

Which forward should Columbus sign, if any?

None, we’re fine as is64
Other (explain your choice in the comments)90

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