Blue Jackets Offer First Clue in Expansion Draft Plans

The first piece of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ expansion-draft plans has been revealed according to a report.

Per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets did not ask veteran-forward Scott Hartnell to waive his no-move clause. This comes as a bit of a surprise given that he must now be protected in the expansion draft.

Trying to Interpret This Move

Seeing this news points to one of two things. It could mean that the Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights have reached an agreement. Part of that agreement could involve the Golden Knights agreeing not to take a certain player if left unprotected. The obvious name that jumps out here is forward Josh Anderson. If this is the case, the Blue Jackets would have three of their seven forwards accounted for protection wise as Hartnell, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky all have no-move clauses.

That leaves just four spots for players like Anderson, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, William Karlsson and Matt Calvert. To not approach Hartnell could indicate one or more of these players is safe even if exposed.

But that’s not the only scenario in play.

The Blue Jackets could choose to buy out the remaining two seasons of Hartnell’s contract. That would save the team $3.25 million in cap space this coming season. If bought out before the expansion draft, another player would be protected.

According to Portzline’s report, Hartnell was informed at his end of season meeting that it was unlikely he would return to the team. Whether that means a buyout or trade is coming remains to be seen.

We won’t know this until we hear news of a buyout or at the expansion draft when trades are announced. The league wants all trades to be revealed on June 21.

The Blue Jackets could choose to buy out the remaining two years of Scott Hartnell’s deal. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What If a Deal Was Reached?

As we’ve reported before, there is speculation that the Blue Jackets and Golden Knights are discussing a deal involving David Clarkson. Many are asking why the Blue Jackets would do this, especially for the high price of a first rounder and prospect.

There are a couple of reasons why the Blue Jackets would do this. It would open $5.25 million in cap space for the next three seasons. They wouldn’t have to worry about the headache of LTIR and getting close to the cap to use it. Remember that Clarkson’s cap hit counts in the offseason. Taking his cap off the books opens a variety of possibilities for the Blue Jackets in the offseason.

Now why such a high price for this? If this deal does happen, it seems to signal that there is some sort of agreement between the teams in terms of who the Golden Knights will take. If it ensures that the Blue Jackets don’t lose a key piece such as Anderson, paying the price of a pick and prospect could be worth it to keep your team in tact.

I’d imagine the deal would look a little something like this. The Golden Knights get David Clarkson’s contract in full, the Blue Jackets’ 24th pick in the draft and a prospect in exchange for a lower draft pick and insurance that certain players won’t be taken. It’s a high price for the Blue Jackets to pay, but it opens interesting possibilities later in the offseason if a trade opportunity opens. The Blue Jackets would then have plenty of cap space to add a bigger-named player.

There is so much more to come on this. Stay tuned with us for all the latest happenings as we count down to the expansion draft and beyond.