A year ahead: Looking ahead to next summer’s free agency for the Columbus Blue Jackets

There are several players on the Blue Jackets’ roster without a contract for the 2023-24 season who are already eligible for a contract extension. Most notably, defender Vladislav Gavrikov and forward Gustav Nyquist are expected to be UFAs, and defender Andrew Peeke and forwards Yegor Chinakov and Alexandre Texier are expected to be RFAs after this season. Nyquist was rumored to have been traded after Patrik Laine extended with the team, but he is still on the list following Oliver Bjorkstrand’s transfer from the club to Seattle.

According to capfriendly.com, the Jackets have 16 players under contract for the 23-24 season and $14,679,167 in projected cap space. If they want to keep the five players listed above for the ’23-’24 season, they should have enough space to do so. But what about the league players who should be UFA next summer?

Unless there are major course changes, the Jackets are unlikely to be in the market for one of the best players around like they were this year when they signed Johnny Gaudreau after a 115-point season. These types of players will likely cost between $9 million and $10 million on the open market, which would leave the Jackets with around $5 million of cap space to sign the players I mentioned above. That’s not to say they won’t surprise everyone and land another superstar free agent and move some cash to be cap-compliant with good team depth, though. Additionally, performances this season, on the NHL roster, in the minors and in other leagues, will go a long way in determining what moves the team will be willing to make next summer. For example, will Adam Boqvist or Nick Blankenburg take a new step in their development and therefore make Gavrikov expendable either at maturity or in free agency? After this season, how close will defensive prospects David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk and Corson Ceulemans be to playing in the NHL? What about Jake Bean? Is he a big leap from last season as one of three left-handed defensemen on the NHL roster? Does Kirill Marchenko make a splash as a rookie and make Nyquist available for a forward?

All these questions will be answered on the ice. Well, technically Jarmo Kekalainen will answer that, but the on-ice game will likely influence his decision-making process heading into the 2023 off-season. Don’t watch now, but the 2022-23 regular season opener is a bit away. more than two months.

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