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Cannon Blasts: A guide to the off-season

Plus, Elvis opens up

NHL: APR 28 Lightning at Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our beloved Columbus Blue Jackets failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second year in a row, so once again they have an early start to the off-season. Here are important dates you need to know for this summer:

May 2: Stanley Cup playoffs begin
May 10: NHL Draft Lottery
May 13-29: IIHF World Championship
June 30: Last possible date of the Stanley Cup Final
July 7-8: NHL Entry Draft
July 13: Start of free agency
August 9-20: IIHF World Junior Championship

The following players are restricted free agents:

Patrik Laine
Jack Roslovic
Emil Bemstrom
Carson Meyer
Kevin Stenlund
Josh Dunne
Liam Foudy
Trey Fix-Wolansky
Nick Blankenburg
Adam Boqvist
Cabriel Carlsson
Daniil Tarasov

The following are unrestricted free agents:

Brendan Gaunce
Nathan Gerbe
Zac Rinaldo
Tyler Sikura
Scott Harrington
Dean Kukan
Joonas Korpisalo
Jean-Francois Berube
Cam Johnson

24 players are already under standard player contracts for 2022-23. The Jackets can sign up to 26 more. $54,370,833 is committed to the salary cap, with $28,129,167 in projected cap space under the $82,500,000 cap, per the indispensable CapFriendly.

As far as The Cannon goes, there is no off-season. We have a lot to say about the season, including our usual player report cards. In June, we’ll profile prospects who are on the radar for the two picks held by the Jackets, both in the top 12.

We’ll also have some coverage of the post-season. In case you missed it, last week we had a guide to bandwagon rooting interests. There is also a bracket challenge you can join by Wednesday. We will post a first round open-thread later today, in time for the first games tonight. This post here will be the open-thread for any Jackets discussion over the next week.

Final Thought

Saturday was locker cleanout day, and several players spoke to the media following their exit interviews. Perhaps the most important was Patrik Laine again acknowledging his desire to re-sign here. If both the player and the team want this to happen, there’s a good chance it will. It’s just a question of getting the term and salary to match.

The player I want to talk about today, however, is Elvis Merzlikins. He was as candid as ever speaking about how he coped with grief this season over the loss of his friend and teammate Matiss Kivlenieks. I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but the last five minutes are particularly important. Elvis owns up to his vulnerabilities. He admits that the cannon reminded him of the fireworks that killed Kivi for the first few games, but then he was able to move past that. He confesses that the grief hit especially hard around the holidays, which they always used to spend together. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve triggered him again, to the point that he didn’t feel he could play in the New Year’s Day game against Carolina.

It goes against hockey culture — and traditional concepts of masculinity, in general — to admit to any weakness. Or to discuss your feelings with others. I am so proud of Elvis of being able to break through that, and to reach out to others for help. Goaltending coach Manny Legace was a partner in grief, as he was also present at Kivi’s death, and had been like family to him. Brad Larsen was willing to give him that game off as he requested.

Being there to take away some responsibilities for a bit, or being there to talk to, or even just being there to hug: these are little things that go a long way towards supporting someone in pain. This is important to bring attention to, and I’m glad that we can have this conversation, thanks to Elvis.

I like to say that time heals all wounds, but scars will remain. I trust that things will be easier — mentally and emotionally — for Elvis next season, but he will still need this support going forward.