Blue Jackets Have 3 Logical Trade Partners to Shed Some Salary

The Columbus Blue Jackets had an unforgettable week when they landed UFA Johnny Gaudreau. Now it’s time for them to face the reality of the immediate ramifications of this signing.

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Gaudreau’s AAV comes in at $9.75 million per season. This leaves the Blue Jackets with about $2.3 million in cap space remaining. It’s not a matter of if another move is coming. It’s a matter of how many moves are coming.

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At the top of the business list for the Blue Jackets is Patrik Laine. His new deal alone would put the team over the $82.5 million upper limit. Our William Espy did a nice job of laying out his situation on Saturday.

Related: How the Blue Jackets Can Retain Patrik Laine

But that’s not all for the Blue Jackets. They also need to sign RFA forward Emil Bemstrom. Between him and Laine, it’s reasonable to think the team will need a little under $10 million to lock both of them in.

For now because it is the offseason, the Blue Jackets can go up to 10% over the upper limit of $82.5 million. That means they can go to $90.75 million. But by opening night, they must have a compliant roster.

One immediate concern is that Laine is eligible for arbitration. However Aaron Portzline of the Athletic tweeted Saturday night that Laine is not expected to file for arbitration, possibly a sign that talks between the two sides are amicable.

This means the Blue Jackets are looking at one, possibly two moves for the purpose of shedding salary cap space assuming Laine’s deal gets done. The team will need to find willing trade partners in order to make this happen.

Which teams make the most logical sense for the Blue Jackets to make a deal with? These will be teams that are both willing and able to take on contracts. It might cost the Blue Jackets a sweetener depending on what all is involved. But three teams seem to stand out for a possible trade.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes are the most obvious choice. They are in a clear rebuild and are looking for anything that will boost their future. They are also on record as saying that they’d take on a bad contract if that meant getting something good to go with it.

In addition, the Coyotes have a full roster and over $23 million in cap space. In fact they sit short of the salary cap floor of $61 million as of this writing. They can get there once they sign their RFAs Barrett Hayton and Lawson Crouse. They would still have ample room to take on a contract or two.

Jarmo Kekalainen Columbus Blue Jackets
Jarmo Kekäläinen could look to the Coyotes for a possible trade. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

What will be interesting to see is the potential cost with this kind of trade. Reportedly teams were asking for a first round pick to take on the $7 million of James van Riemsdyk’s final year. Perhaps seeing this points to multiple moves for the Blue Jackets so they don’t have to give up a first rounder. They’d especially want to hold on to their 2023 first rounder.

The Blue Jackets and Coyotes have talked before. Perhaps they can focus on a different kind of deal instead of the supposed one with Jakob Chychrun.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks also find themselves below the salary cap floor of $61 million. With just $51 million committed so far on 2022-23, other moves will be coming.

This is where you start to wonder if there is more of a hockey trade that can be found here. The Ducks have cap space and a need for impact players. The Blue Jackets have an excess of NHL ready wingers. This has the makings of being a logical trade scenario.

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Guys like Gus Nyquist and Oliver Bjorkstrand seem to be brought up as the most likely to be included in a deal. Nyquist has one more season at $5.5 million and Bjorkstrand has four more seasons at $5.4 million. Couple that with the need to have players like Yegor Chinakhov and Kent Johnson play more often and you see why a trade makes sense.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have over $19 million in space available with their roster mostly set. However they have more than ample room to take on some contracts.

The Sabres could land an impact player or get a sweetener of some sort. How would Bjorkstrand look here? Because they’d hold leverage knowing the Blue Jackets have to make deals to shed salary, the cost of acquisition could be far less than in a normal situation.

Oliver Bjorkstrand Columbus Blue Jackets
Oliver Bjorkstrand will be a popular target of teams knowing the Blue Jackets have to shed salary. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

They could also take Nyquist’s deal now and flip him by the trade deadline for future assets. With several potential options available, the Sabres make for a logical trade partner.

Blue Jackets Must Act

No matter how they go about this, the Blue Jackets must act in order to be cap compliant. They might lose a good player or two at less than market as a result. While that could hurt at first, they’re still over the moon that they landed Gaudreau the way they did.

The Blue Jackets will find a way to make this work. With several teams having cap space, it’s only a matter of which teams make the most sense for the Blue Jackets to do business with. Teams will certainly be calling wondering if they can land an impact player in this situation.

Stay tuned on this one. It’s only a matter of time before we see the ramifications of the Gaudreau signing.

Honorable mentions: Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Seattle Kraken, Detroit Red Wings.