The Columbus Blue Jackets face a bit of a dilemma with pending restricted free agent Jack Roslovic. Typically with a player under team control, things move fairly smoothly. Unfortunately for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, Roslovic’s recent performances haven’t made a decision easy.
Causes of the Roslovic Dilemma
The arrival of Jack Roslovic to Columbus brought an immense amount of excitement to fans in a down season. Adding a hometown player is always a fun occurrence for fans, but sometimes it’s not quite as fun for management. Roslovic made quite an impact in his first partial season with the Blue Jackets. After being traded alongside Patrik Laine, he played the best hockey of his NHL career to date. In the offseason, the Blue Jackets brought in two other hometown players, Cole Sillinger and Sean Kuraly, which added considerably to the hype around the team.
While his second season in Columbus hasn’t been as dynamic offensively, and although he’s certainly improved, his defensive ability has never been the strongest part of his game. A prime example of his struggles would be his turnover against the Calgary Flames; he sent the puck straight to Matthew Tkachuk, who scored instantly. While this play on its own wouldn’t be concerning since players do make mistakes occasionally, these types of mistakes haven’t been a rare occurrence this season.
Although his offensive production has been down this season, he is still on pace for his second-best season points-wise. This season alone, he’s already found himself passed by Sillinger and Kuraly on the depth chart, when prior to opening night, it seemed like he was a lock for a top-six role. Recently, he’s found some success as part of the fourth line alongside Trey Fix-Wolansky and Brendan Gaunce. Unfortunately for him, this line is only a temporary fixture, and once some NHL regulars return from injury, both linemates will likely return to the AHL.
The Blue Jackets’ Internal Options
As the trade deadline approaches, Kekalainen and company have quite a few ways they can deal with the Columbus native.
Despite Roslovic’s struggles throughout the season, he has still been a serviceable bottom-six forward. Considering how he ended up with the Blue Jackets, getting an extension may not be as easy as you would think. With the Winnipeg Jets, he held out of training camp and through the start of the season coming off of his entry-level contract. This time around, he will be eligible for salary arbitration, which should make things a bit easier if it’s necessary.
At 25 years old, Roslovic still has room to grow, which makes this option attractive for management. Finding the correct term and financial numbers will be difficult under these circumstances. Considering Kuraly has passed him on the depth chart, as previously mentioned, it would be difficult to give Roslovic a bigger contract than his new teammate. If Kekalainen can find the right number for him, Roslovic staying in Columbus for the next few years seems like the most likely outcome.
There are two ways a qualifying offer can go: a player can accept it like Patrik Laine did last offseason, or another team can attempt to sign the player to an offer sheet. Considering offer sheets can be matched by the team that owns the player’s rights, this is a fairly low-risk option when it comes to re-signing a player. Especially considering Roslovic is eligible for arbitration, it’s almost a guarantee that he would join the team on a one-year deal if the Blue Jackets went this route in the offseason.
Considering the type of role he fills, an offer sheet would be highly unlikely under these circumstances, making this route the safest from a team perspective. They would get the player on a small contract and give him one year to prove his worth against the upcoming young talent. If he performs to expectation, then they would be able to reward him with a more lucrative contract.
The Trade Route
Roslovic has value to quite a few different types of teams. He’s at a fairly low cap hit and has team control at the end of the season, which can be attractive to contending teams near the salary cap who want depth but don’t want a rental. At the same time, a team would have no commitment to the player if things didn’t go as planned.
Roslovic would also be able to help teams who are near the end of a rebuild and want to solidify their bottom-six. If he was moved to a defensively minded team that wanted a scoring punch from their third-line center, it would likely be a perfect situation to get the most out of him. This is the least likely option, as the Blue Jackets seem to think they can turn him into the player they need him to be. He’s certainly improved on the defensive side of things, and there will be some growing pains. With that said, there’s a very real chance that he doesn’t start the 2022-23 season as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets are likely going to have to make some difficult decisions with quite a few NHL-ready prospects making the leap over the next couple of seasons. Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko are just two of the forwards who will almost certainly compete for a roster spot during the next training camp. As a result, if the team can get a decent offer for Roslovic or if his asking price doesn’t fit what they’re willing to pay, a move becomes more likely. As of now, it seems like the most probable outcome would be Roslovic re-signing, even if it’s far from a guarantee.
William Espy is a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus. He has been writing about hockey since 2016 on various platforms. He currently covers the Columbus Blue Jackets but had a previous stint covering the Calgary Flames.