The Columbus Blue Jackets have an opportunity to reunite with former captain Nick Foligno as he was placed on waivers by the Boston Bruins on Sunday. While this would certainly be a great story for the city and fans, it’s a move that the organization should avoid for the time being.
If Foligno was on a smaller contract, bringing him back to Columbus for a bottom-six role could be a nice idea. He’s someone who will always be respected by the fans and organization for his contribution to the city. With that being said, he currently carries a cap hit of $3.8 million. Even though he’s in the final year of his contract, the Blue Jackets aren’t in a position to add that large of a cap hit to the books.
It would certainly be possible, however, it wouldn’t be the smart move at this point in time. They’d need to make a move of some sort to allow him to fit, as there’s currently just under $3 million of cap space available. If the team was still in reset mode like last season, adding Foligno’s leadership could be a valuable tool for the young players in the system. With the additions of Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson in the offseason, things have changed. While the roster is still young for the most part, the pieces to be competitive are already there. Add in the fact that management just traded Oliver Bjorkstrand to make the current amount of cap space, and it makes the idea feel even worse.
Time Has Changed Foligno
Although it’s difficult to say, the reality is that Foligno is no longer the same player that he used to be. Ever since leaving Columbus, he’s experienced quite a bit of difficulty. Last season, he only had two goals and 11 assists through a total of 64 games. A far drop from the numbers he was putting up in the mid-2010s. Blue Jackets management decided to go another direction for a reason, it was what was best for both the organization and the player. It’s only been a season and a half since he departed and that reasoning is just as strong today as it was then.
Simply put, there’s no room for Foligno in the lineup. We already discussed the financial reasons, but another drawback is the fact that there’s already a major fight for positioning in the bottom half of the lineup. Kirill Marchenko is a highly touted rookie and he has been forced down to the American Hockey League (AHL). Kent Johnson is expected to make the roster, but there’s a chance he faces a similar fate later on in the season. This team is in a position where they should be looking to move out mid-level players rather than bring more in.
Putting an aging veteran in the midst of that fight will only lead to a lower level of development for those who are fighting for a roster spot as it is. Foligno would be the type of player who would benefit this team as a trade deadline acquisition for depth if they were in the playoff conversation. Adding him now though would just make an existing problem into a bigger one for no reason other than fanfare which is something Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t appear to be inclined to do.
Just because bringing back Foligno isn’t a great idea this season, doesn’t mean it can’t be explored in the future. The Blue Jackets appear to be a very strong team on paper, however, it’s hard to put them anywhere near a contending team until they’ve proved they can back it up on the ice. As they move closer to being a perennial playoff contender once again, he may be a great depth option to bring in a couple of years from now. Of course, in order to do so, he’ll have to rejuvenate his NHL career and keep his head above water until then. He’s a player that will certainly go down in Blue Jackets history whether he returns or not. It goes without saying, nearly everyone in Columbus would enjoy a Foligno reunion however it shouldn’t happen right now.