The Columbus Blue Jackets have had quite the offseason. GM Jarmo Kekalainen landed the consensus top player available on the free agent market, Johnny Gaudreau, and locked his superstar sniper, Patrik Laine, into a four-year deal to stay in Columbus. With the signing of Erik Gudbranson also on the books, the Blue Jackets have been left in an unfamiliar position: without any salary cap room. The team does have Gustav Nyquist’s $5.5MM contract coming off the books next summer, and it looks like we may already have a good idea as to who a good chunk of those funds will be re-allocated to next summer. According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, (subscription link) the Blue Jackets “would like to get” defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov “signed long-term” to an extension.
It’s easy to see why the Blue Jackets would want to retain Gavrikov, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Gavrikov was the clear number-two defenseman on the Blue Jackets, handling over 22 difficult minutes per night. Gavrikov was also a highly-trusted penalty killer, and he anchored the Blue Jackets’ penalty kill operation alongside Andrew Peeke. The 26-year-old Russian also took a step forward on the offensive side of the game, ending the season with a healthy 33 points despite playing barely any time on the team’s power play. Gavrikov is among the league’s most underrated all-around defensemen and his overall profile should see a boost once his (likely lucrative) next contract hits the books.
Now, for some other notes regarding the Blue Jackets:
- While the Blue Jackets’ trade of Oliver Bjorkstrand wasn’t ideal for management, the player, or the Blue Jackets fans, it was necessary. Kekalainen said dealing Bjorkstrand to Seattle was “the best of the no-good options,” and today, Portzline shed some light as to why that was the case. With the flat cap driving the prices to dump contracts to sky-high levels, Portzline believes that if the Blue Jackets preferred to shed Nyquist’s contract, it likely could have cost a 2023 first-round pick or even a top prospect. If the Blue Jackets wanted to trade Jakub Voracek and his $8.25MM cap hit over two more seasons, Portzline believes it may have even cost both a first-rounder and a top prospect. So, with that reality in mind, Bjorkstrand being the departing player rather than Nyquist or Voracek makes a bit more sense.
- One name Blue Jackets fans have moved on from is that of their 2016 third-overall pick, Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Blue Jackets sent him to Winnipeg in exchange for Laine and Jack Roslovic, and with Laine locked up long-term and Roslovic authoring productive seasons in Columbus, it seems both the fanbase and organization are satisfied with the deal. The one person who hasn’t been satisfied, seemingly, is Dubois, who has made his desire to play in Montreal no secret. According to Portzline, Dubois has “twice gone into a summer wanting” the Canadiens to submit an offer sheet for his services, and it seems that the Blue Jackets were even “tipped off” about the possibility of an offer sheet in 2020 when they dealt Markus Nutivaara and Ryan Murray for minimal returns in order to clear cap space. Dubois recently accepted a one-year qualifying offer, meaning the offer sheet possibility is now off the table, but with Dubois inching towards his own unrestricted free agency it’s definitely possible, if a bit unlikely, that he ends up in Montreal this summer.