The Blue Jackets did not make this post easy on me. As we head into the beginning of free agency July 1, and look at the Jackets’ needs, we still have to consider the pending trade of Rick Nash which will almost certainly bring back at least one NHL roster player. Who will that player be? What position will he play? Will there be multiple NHL players? A couple of top six forwards coming back really changes the Blue Jackets goals heading into free agency. So for the purposes of this post, I will be considering the NHL roster as-is, minus Rick Nash.
As I currently see it, the team needs at least one top six forward, at least one bottom six forward, a depth defenseman, and an NHL goaltender. Preferably, they would add two top six forwards and one bottom six forward. On offense, this would push Vinny Prospal, Ryan Johansen, and/or Cam Atkinson into the bottom six, who could then form a third scoring line with Mark Letestu and either Derek Dorsett or a trade/free agent pick-up. The versatility of Ryan Johansen and Mark Letestu really helps with the flexibility, as does having Johansen, Atkinson and Ryan Russell on two-way contracts. Johansen and Letestu can shift to the wing, and Johansen, Atkinson and Russell could all be sent to Springfield if better options are added.
On defense, the selection of Ryan Murray solidifies the Blue Jackets top six for next season. Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin and Marc Methot should be locks for five of the spots. The last spot will come down to Ryan Murray, John Moore or possibly David Savard. I would expect to see Murray get a nine game regular season tryout before the winner of that spot is selected. Only one of those three should be on the NHL roster, while the other two play big minutes in the AHL/WHL. This would require a seventh defenseman for the NHL roster, one who would likely only play in emergency situations, or if the blueline is struck by multiple injuries. In net, a better option than Steve Mason is necessary. Whether or not that player will be better than Sergei Bobrovsky is up in the air, but someone needs to be brought in. For a better handle on their needs, let’s take a look at the Blue Jackets roster:
Blue Jackets Current Roster
R.J. Umberger $4.6m – Derick Brassard $3.2m – ???
Vinny Prospal $2.5m – Ryan Johansen $1.945m – Cam Atkinson $0.875m
??? – Mark Letestu $0.625m – Derek Dorsett $1.633m
Ryan Russell $0.700m – Derek MacKenzie $1.0m – Jared Boll RFA
Colton Gillies $0.625m
Jack Johnson $4.357m – James Wisniewski $5.5m
Fedor Tyutin $4.5m – Nikita Nikitin $2.15
Marc Methot $3.0m – John Moore $0.965m
Ryan Murray Unsigned
Sergei Bobrovsky $1.75m – Steve Mason $2.9m
CURRENT CAP SPACE: $25.833m
Now onto the lists of free agents. All four of the lists are sortable. CGP, etc stands for Career Games Played, etc. The $$$ and exp. $$$ refers to the players salary last season, and an expected salary for next season.
Top Six Forward Options
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Bottom Six Forward Options
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Depth Defenseman Options
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While not a comprehensive list, those are the names that I think could be either good fits in Columbus, or players they may target on Sunday. I hope to see one name from each of those lists added to the Blue Jackets by early next week. Sort through the options and lets us know in the comments which players you want to see in Union Blue!