One of the things that wasn’t discussed enough last season when the Columbus Blue Jackets struggled to keep pace in the Central Division was the absence of Gustav Nyquist. In early November, months before the season even began, Nyquist underwent surgery to repair a labral tear in his left shoulder. It was an issue that the Swedish forward had been dealing with for years and it finally got to a point where a procedure was necessary.
On November 4, the Blue Jackets announced that Nyquist would be out for five to six months. That gave him plenty of time to return for a playoff run should Columbus get back to the postseason, as they had in each of the previous four seasons. By April, when Nyquist was closing in on that recovery timeline, the Blue Jackets were already out of the race, mired in controversy, and a few months away from trading franchise icon Seth Jones after he was the latest to turn down any extension talks with the franchise.
Now, as the Blue Jackets prepare for a season without Jones, Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, David Savard and others, Nyquist is at full health and ready to contribute, according to Jeff Svoboda of NHL.com. The shoulder injury is behind him and the 32-year-old forward will have a chance to show that he still can be a top-level forward in the NHL, even after a year on the shelf.
A consistent offensive performer, Nyquist finished second in scoring with the Blue Jackets in 2019-20. He has registered at least 20 goals in a season four times and has never recorded fewer than 40 points in any of his seven full seasons. He’ll join an attack that actually may be more dangerous than people are giving them credit for, with Patrik Laine, Jakub Voracek, and Oliver Bjorkstrand likely leading the way. Nyquist represents one of just two players on the roster (Voracek) that are in their thirties, and as Svoboda writes, will be asked to take on a leadership role after the departures of so many key players.
If things don’t go well in Columbus this season, Nyquist could well become a trade deadline chip given his age and contract. Signed through 2022-23, he carries an average annual value of $5.5MM but has no trade protection built in. The Blue Jackets have a massive extension for Zach Werenski kicking in for 2022-23 and some extremely important free agent negotiations to work through, meaning they could probably use the extra salary space moving forward.
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