After getting their new second-line center locked up yesterday, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be clearing some room today. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic and Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch are both reporting that the Blue Jackets will place Alexander Wennberg on waivers today for the purpose of a contract buyout. This is the final day a team can use the buyout system in the current window. Because Wennberg has three years remaining on his current contract, meaning the Blue Jackets will incur cap charges for the next six seasons. However, given his age, the Blue Jackets will only be responsible for paying 1/3 of the remaining salary, drastically reducing their cap charges moving forward. Those charges will be:
- 2020-21 $441,667
- 2021-22: $441,667
- 2022-23: $441,667
- 2023-24: $891,667
- 2024-25: $891,667
- 2025-26: $891,667
Saving nearly $4.5MM of cap space over the next three seasons is obviously worth more to the Blue Jackets than Wennberg, who after an outstanding 2016-17 season has been disappointing in each of the last three. A capable defensive center, he has always struggled to score at the NHL level and even his above-average playmaking ability has waned. With just 15 goals and 82 points over his last 198 games, Wennberg’s $4.9MM price tag was simply too high for the Blue Jackets to keep and since he turned 26 last month, this was the last chance they had to buy out his contract at the 1/3rd rate.
Still, this hardly means that Wennberg’s time in the NHL is over. While some buyout candidates are nearing the end of their professional careers, the 26-year-old center will immediately become a sought after asset on the free agent market instead. Again, even though his offensive production has been underwhelming, Wennberg is still a strong two-way option when played in the right circumstances. He saw his best production when used as a catalyst on the Columbus powerplay and regularly posts strong possession numbers regardless of linemates. Though his faceoff statistics are not strong, he does provide solid play at the center position and has penalty killing experience.
The Blue Jackets acquired Max Domi to slot in behind Pierre-Luc Dubois as a much stronger offensive weapon, and still have several other options for the bottom-six center positions. Boone Jenner and Riley Nash are both still under contract at lower prices than Wennberg, while newcomer Mikhail Grigorenko could potentially give a different look after several successful years in the KHL.