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A Look Toward the Off Season: Part 1

April 1, 2020, 11:19 AM ET [1 Comments]
Thomas Townsend
Columbus Blue Jackets Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Disturbing news today about the future of sports. I read that the NCAA is considering cancelling the upcoming football season. Now, I know not all of you are football fans, but we are all sports fans. This is a major sports announcement that points to the future of what could happen with sports as we move through the year. They Olympics already postponed until 2021.

With that announcement, it could mean the end of the NHL, NBA and MLB season (or a delay in the MLB season). It may also threaten or move/shorten the NFL season.

That in mind, I started looking toward the 2020-2021 NHL season, which will likely not start on time. There has been no announcement from the NHL about the end of this season or the start of next...so don't read into my assumptions too much.

Current RFA Roster Players

As a note, this is an unusual off season in which the CBJ will not have any NHL roster UFAs.
Restricted Free Agent List:

Devin Shore*
Pierre-Luc Dubois
Kevin Stenlund
Jakob Lilja
Vladislav Gavrikov
Gabriel Carlsson
Josh Anderson
Ryan MacInnis
Kole Sherwood
Matiss Kivlenieks
Elvis Merzlikins
Joonas Korpisalo*

* = Arbitration Eligible

Top Priority Players

Pierre-Luc Dubois - He is producing this season. He is the top line C. This will be a priority signing for the CBJ. Could this turn into a Ryan Johansen-type contract negotiation? Not likely. My assumption will be that he will sign for somewhere at or below $6M per season depending on term.

Vladislav Gavrikov - This contract is a little harder. His play will be gauged by a small sample size. His ceiling is VERY high, like top pair high. But that is only potential, not a guarantee. My belief is that this will be a short-term contract similar to what they did with Murray.

Elvis Merzlikins - Small but very impressive sample size. If you thought signing Gavrikov will be complicated, this one is sure to be a challenge. Again, my thought is short term with more money than the CBJ really want to spend, but they will.

Joonas Korpisalo - Did he prove himself enough this season? I think so, but he has some competition from Elvis. I think he gets a decent contract with some term. It will be reasonable, and slightly more than Elvis gets. Keeping both of these backstops signed means a great future with a 1A, 1B goalie situation.

Josh Anderson - Much has been said about his dip in play, his injury situation and his trade status. Will he be in a sign-and-trade situation? We he just get moved before/at the draft. His lower numbers and injury situation may mean that he signs a short term, low cost deal to stay in Columbus. He sub-par season may mean that Jarmo could leverage a reasonable contract.

The rest of the RFAs:

Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund, Jakob Lilja, Gabe Carlsson, Ryan MacInnis, Kole Sherwood and Matiss Kivlenieks

This is a group that should not be a big hit to the CBJ salary cap. The two I am most interested in are Kevin Stenlund and Ryan MacInnis.

Stenlund put in significant time on the NHL roster this season, scored some goals, played on the power play...just all around made good contributions. He is an NHL player now. MacInnis saw some NHL time and along with Texier and Fix-Wolansky could be the future here in Columbus. Both need to be signed, but they will be modest and reasonable contracts.

Lilja and Kivlenieks will be signed and may end up toiling in Cleveland. The issue isn't their talent, but room on the roster. Both positions (G and W) have a bit of a log-jam of NHL talent ahead of both of these players. They stay in the pipeline and serve as depth players as they did this season.

That leaves Devin Shore and Kole Sherwood. I believe they both have a future in Columbus. Both will be signed, Shore should stick in the NHL, but I believe Sherwood is destined to play with the Monsters next season. Neither should have a significant impact on the salary cap.

In Part 2, I will look at currently signed players that may be on the trading block this off season.

Do you believe my assessment of RFA contracts is accurate? How do you see them being addressed if I'm wrong?

Stay safe
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