We are a little more than two months away from the start of the 2021-22 NHL season. With that, we are going to introduce some new items as part of our ongoing coverage of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The first item will be in this space. Every Monday or thereabouts, we will have a Blue Jackets dedicated news and rumors piece to start your week off. This will be comprised of anything from noteworthy news items to rumors from verified sources.
In this first installment, an important part of the team is still without a contract. Is this anything we need to be worried about? Will one of the goalies be on the move before the season begins? And why this summer is an important one for Jack Roslovic? Let’s dive in.
Andrew Peeke Still Needs a New Deal
In the midst of all the recent flurry of activity surrounding the Blue Jackets, they got deals done with several important players. Among that group are Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner, Jake Bean, Patrik Laine and Sean Kuraly. But there is still unfinished business left in the contract department.
Defenseman Andrew Peeke is still without a contract. He was given a qualifying offer by the Blue Jackets meaning they still hold his rights. But as a 10.2c player, he doesn’t meet the requirements to be a group two restricted free agent. Peeke would have needed three professional seasons in order to be a group two RFA. He has just two seasons under his belt. Therefore Peeke cannot receive an offer sheet from another team nor does he have arbitration rights.
However given how quickly the group above got their deals done, it’s still interesting that Peeke is the one whose contract is not done.
At this time, it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Both sides have plenty of time to figure things out. But one does wonder if there is some gap that needs to be worked out. The Blue Jackets hold the hammer in negotiations.
Peeke has an opportunity this season to earn an everyday role with the Blue Jackets. The top-four as of this writing appear to be Werenski, Bean, Adam Boqvist and Vladislav Gavrikov. Peeke seems to have an inside track to a spot but camp will ultimately decide that.
Money could certainly be a little bit of a factor here. But here’s the part that is interesting. Peeke is still waivers exempt. With Dean Kukan, Scott Harrington, Gabriel Carlsson and Mikko Lehtonen in the mix for playing time, if Peeke doesn’t have an amazing camp, he still could find himself on the outside looking in.
Does Peeke want a one-way deal? Do the Blue Jackets want a two-way deal to keep their flexibility? Let’s see where this is at come September and as camp approaches. If a deal is still not done then something could be up. For now though, file this away for future reference.
UPDATE: The Blue Jackets have signed Andrew Peeke to a two-year deal totaling $1.575 million. He becomes the ninth defensemen on the roster and will be in a battle for one of the last starting spots.
Will Joonas Korpisalo End Up in Edmonton?
Recently, Frank Seravalli and Jason Gregor on the DFO Podcast had a conversation about the potential future of goalie Joonas Korpisalo and interest from the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s what was said.
“I just wanted to add on to the Edmonton Oilers,” Seravalli said. “I do think they’ve continued to work the phones on the goaltending front. I think the team they’ve been in touch with is the Columbus Blue Jackets about Joonas Korpisalo. I think Elvis Merzlikins is going to end up with a longer-term extension there when it’s all said and done.”
Seravalli went on to say that the ask is a first-round pick for Korpisalo. He added the Oilers might be willing to do that if the Blue Jackets take on Mikko Koskinen. Then as compensation for that, the Blue Jackets could be interested in defenseman Dmitri Samorukov.
It’s no secret the Blue Jackets have been rumored to be in the market for trading one of their goalies. However given the recent tragic events surrounding Matiss Kivlenieks, GM Jarmo Kekalainen recently said their plans may have changed in net. They have two solid goalies and might have to keep them at the start of the season.
However if what Seravalli said is true from a Blue Jackets’ perspective, that’s a deal you have to think about. They have the cap space to take Koskinen on in full. He has just one year left on his deal. He would be the number two behind Merzlikins. And the Blue Jackets would get defensive depth and a third first rounder in the 2022 draft.
It’s hard to imagine the Oilers going into the season with Koskinen and Mike Smith as their goalies. They struck out on other goalies like Darcy Kuemper. Korpisalo was an all-star and when he was in front of a good team, he shined on the playoff stage. We’ll see if anything ever does come from this. As long as both Merzlikins and Korpisalo remain on the Blue Jackets, this story will not go away.
Roslovic’s Big Opportunity
The Blue Jackets made a lot of moves this offseason. But barring another move later, they will enter the season with the same candidates at center ice. That would mean Jack Roslovic could start out as the team’s number-one center.
Max Domi is recovering from shoulder surgery. Jenner could play center. Alex Texier could play center. Sean Kuraly is a center but has played most of his time on the bottom-six. Most experts believe the Blue Jackets will finish near the bottom of the Metro primarily because of their lack of high-end center depth.
Success this season for the Blue Jackets will come down to a couple of things. First, will Roslovic or any of the other centers pick up enough of the slack to keep up with their division foes? Roslovic’s development in particular especially on defense and at faceoffs will be paramount in 2021-22. The team believes he can be a center long-term but he is still clearly learning the position.
Second, the wingers will have to help their centers out when given the chance. The Blue Jackets now have Jakub Voracek to help with the playmaking aspect of things. Perhaps he can help Laine find his game again. Also Gus Nyquist and Oliver Bjorkstrand will each have a chance to be difference makers this season on the wings.
Still, if Roslovic can somehow make important strides in becoming an everyday top-six center, that will make a huge difference on how this season can be viewed. He has the skating and the skill to be there. He just has to put it all together in a short amount of time.
This summer is of utmost importance for Roslovic. How he handles it could help determine if the Blue Jackets can make a return trip to the playoffs as soon as this season.
See you next week at this time.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.