Since the start of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ offseason, I didn’t see free agency as something to pay much attention to. I knew what available cap space the team had would be tied up with re-signing restricted free agents Pierre-Luc Dubois, Vladislav Gavrikov, and possibly Josh Anderson. While the team would be looking to add outside talent, more likely that would come via a trade, with the dollars evening out.
Suddenly, after a very busy week, the Jackets roster is already looking much different, and suddenly the cap space is present to not only pay Dubois and Gavrikov, but to take a big swing at one of the free agents.
First, let’s recap what has happened so far.
IN: Max Domi, acquired along with a third round draft pick (Samuel Knazko) for Josh Anderson. Domi then signed a two year contract with an average annual value of $5.3 million.
Cliff Pu, a minor league body acquired for Markus Nutivaara.
OUT: Josh Anderson, who then signed a seven year contract with Montreal, with an AAV of $5.5 million.
Alexander Wennberg, bought out with three years remaining on his contract, at an AAV of $4.9 million. That buyout will carry a cap hit of $441,667 for the next three seasons, and $891,667 for the three seasons after that (through 2026).
Markus Nutivaara to Florida, with two years remaining on his contract with an AAV of $2.7 million.
Ryan Murray to New Jersey for a fifth round pick. Murray has one year remaining with an AAV of $4.6 million.
That adds up to $11.8 million in cap space freed up on Thursday. The total cap space, per the indispensable CapFriendly, is $14,208,333. That does not include the $5.85 million cap hit for Brandon Dubinsky, which can offer some additional spending room via long term injured reserve.
So, Jarmo Kekalainen has money to work with. What will he do with it?
Top Free Agents
Taylor Hall. The 28 year old left winger won the Hart Trophy in 2018. He missed most of the 2019 season to injury, and was inconsistent this year after being traded to Arizona. Even in a down year for him, he put up 52 points. With up the cap space and with only two players currently signed past 2022 (Atkinson and Nyquist), Columbus could offer Hall money and/or term to woo him here.
Mike Hoffman. He had the most points in 2019-20 of the unrestricted free agents but I hope we pass on him because he and his wife are horrible.
Evgeni Dadonov. This is the former Panther worth kicking the tires on. At 31 a long term deal is not a good idea, but one or two years would be low risk for a guy who has averaged 60 points a season over the last three years.
Anthony Duclair. I don’t see this as a real possibility, but he’s cheap and he and and Torts have continually said nice things about each other.
Tyler Toffoli. Not as productive as the others, but would also come cheaper. He is 28 years old and has averaged 46 points a season.
Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug. There are better fits for these guys, but the Columbus blue line suddenly isn’t as deep as it was. Do we want to risk regular appearances from Scott Harrington? I thought teams that missed out on these players would be suitors for a trade of Savard/Murray/Nutivaara but with two of those already gone, trading Savard seems unlikely.
Well, I typed that shortly before midnight, then I saw this tweet:
So who knows. Let’s get weird. Hall AND Pietrangelo?
Goalies. UFA netminders include Henrik Lundqvist (reportedly signing with Washington), Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Craig Anderson, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss, and more. The Jackets won’t sign any of them, but should pay attention to the teams that are looking to upgrade in net. Whoever misses out on one of these free agents may be looking to trade instead. For example, Calgary may have soured on Johnny Gaudreau, and could upgrade from David Rittich in goal. There could be a mutually beneficial deal there.
Internal cap? The remaining possibility, if there isn’t a big signing or a big trade, is that the cap dump is the result of an internal cap imposed by ownership. They lost out on revenue from five remaining regular season home games, and some playoff games as well. It’s likely that when the new season starts (currently targeted for January), fans will not be in the arena, or will be in heavily reduced numbers.
This is the open thread for today and through the weekend. If you see or hear a rumor, drop it in the comments. Provide a link or some other attribution to the source of the rumor or news. Do not embed tweets in the comments, as that can slow down the load time on the page. Just copy the text and/or link the tweet.
Please keep the conversation civil. So far this week I’m happy to say that while there have been a lot of different opinions thrown around, it hasn’t gotten personal and no one has gotten close to crossing the line. Thank you.
We all want what is best for the Blue Jackets franchise, and I’m excited to see what moves management has planned.