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2021 Free Agency Preview: Can the Blue Jackets find a center or some scoring on the open market?

The Blue Jackets need forward help - can they find any on the open market?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

On the eve of NHL free agency, the Columbus Blue Jackets have roughly $25 million in cap space. It’s not expected that they will be major players as they enter a rebuild, but they do need to field a roster on a nightly basis.

Who could the team possibly target in free agency? Let’s have a look at the forward lineup in

Brandon Saad

The former Blue Jacket and two time Stanley Cup champion is on the market this summer after a season that saw him put up 15-9-24 in 44 games last season for the Colorado Avalanche. Saad, who will be 28 next season, is coming off a six year $6 million per year deal that he was traded twice during. Saad’s point totals have decreased each of the last three seasons.

Saad, a left winger, fills a position of need for the Jackets - a top six winger who plays on the left and can find the back of the net with consistency. If he could be had for a shade under his previous AAV, perhaps a four year contract worth $5.5 million or so per year, he could be a valuable piece for a team that lacks NHL ready offense right now - a better version of Gustav Nyquist.

Phillip Danault

Danault is an unrestricted free agent this summer, fresh off a stock-soaring run to the Stanley Cup Final. Danault played a shutdown center role for a Montreal team that shocked the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Vegas Golden Knights before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning. While not the most offensively minded player on the market, Danault would provide instant help for a Blue Jackets defense that struggled last year.

Danault posted just 5-19-24 last season, but we have seen defense-first centers lead this team to the playoffs before. Brandon Dubinsky was a first line center for the Blue Jackets in the playoffs at one point, it’s possible Danault could fill that same role. On a line with Patrik Laine and Jake Voracek, Danault could play a defensive role to let those other players flow offensively. It’s not the worst idea, especially if the team is thinking “quick rebuild.”

Blake Coleman

Most recently seen playing Boone Jenner’s role for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Coleman brings experience and winning mentality to a locker room that has turned over its leadership and veteran presence in the last week. He posted 14-17-31 in 53 games last season to go along with a 50.5% CF%. He is a calm, steadying presence and one that benefits any locker room.

Coleman’s services will be in high demand, however, and there isn’t much of a fit in Columbus. As noted, Boone Jenner plays that role here right now. Coleman will be offered big money by a team with the Stanley Cup in mind for this year, and Columbus is not that. Expect him to sign elsewhere this week.

Gabriel Landeskog

The captain of the Colorado Avalance, Landeskog and the team are reportedly far apart on contract negotiations as we approach free agency. Before the expansion draft last week, it was reported that Seattle attempted to sign Landeskog during their exclusive window, but were unsuccessful.

Landeskog is reportedly looking for a contract in the $9 million per year range, and would bring defensive acumen and veteran leadership from a winning roster to a team that has done little winning of late. Columbus, however, has to be seen as an unlikely landing spot for arguably the most high profile free agent on the market.

Mattias Janmark

A center for the Vegas Golden Knights last season, Janmark notched 11-13-24 in 56 games last season. He posted a 57% CF% in heavy offensive zone usage, playing solid bottom six minutes for a team that reached the final four last year.

Janmark is not likely to be the type of player the Blue Jackets target, but could fill a need in the bottom six if his market bottoms out. Columbus needs NHL caliber centers next year and, if the price is right, Janmark might be worth circling around to later in the week.

Mike Hoffman

Well, he puts the puck in the net, we can give him that. Hoffman played for an extremely disappointing St. Louis Blues squad last season and missed the playoffs, but not for his lack of effort. Hoffman played just 15:04 per night last year over 52 games, but still managed to chip in 17 goals and 36 points in 52 games. Hoffman is getting older (he turns 32 later this year), but he could be a valuable middle six scoring threat and power play asset - 17 of his points last year were with the man advantage.

Hoffman played on a one year, $4 million contract last season so he would likely come in on the cheaper side, but may be looking for term or a place he can try to win a Cup as his career winds down. Unless he signs a one year deal to become a deadline rental, it’s unlikely we see him in the Union Blue next year.

Who do you want to see Columbus sign in free agency?