CBJ Must Re-Sign Ryan Murray
In response to Bobrovsky putting his downtown condo up for sale the Blue Jackets signed Merzlikins today. It was a 1-year one-way NHL contract but other terms were not disclosed. Let's also be reasonable, this was not a direct response to Bob's condo going on the market. Merzlikins was going to get a contract regardless. It will be interesting to see the Cap hit.
Merzlikins has played very well in international play and has had a consistent .920 Sv% for HC Lugano over the past 4 seasons. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to an 82-game NHL schedule.
Here are some highlights of his work in the 2018 Worlds against some significant NHL talent:
Now that the CBJ has signed it's first RFA of the off season here is a look at the rest of the RFAs on the roster starting with those of the highest significance.
Current Salary: $925,000
Draft: 2015, 1st Round, 8th Pick
He has played top pair time, been a 40+ point scorer with double digit goals in each of his first three seasons. This all means that he is due a large pay increase. He should get Seth-Jones-money which means around $5.5M cap hit.
Is he in danger of an offer sheet? Best guess is that he is not. Compensation would likely need to be a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick ($6.1M +) in order for the Jackets to consider not matching. CBJ would likely match even if the offer was $6.1M or greater, but those draft picks would be cause to take pause.
Current Salary: $900,000
Draft: 2012, 3rd Round
He played a very valuable role as Bob's back up in the past season. He had streaks of brilliance and also play that made CBJ fans remember he is the back up. He has not been given a chance to be a starter. If given a chance to be a regular starter he may display more consistent play or could burn out with too much work. Best guess is he gets up to $2.5M per year.
Current Salary: $2,825,000
Draft: 2012, 1st Round, 2nd Overall
Critic: He hasn't lived up to his potential as a top pair d-man.
Supporter: Played on the top pair with Seth this season and thrived.
Critic: Very injury prone and doesn't do any good on IR
Supporter: He had 29 points and a +20 before a season-ending injury. Injuries are part of the game and a player has a very hard time 'preventing' injuries as no one tries to get hurt.
I fall squarely into the Supporter group. At 25 years old he is reaching his prime. He will recover from his current injury. His injury-riddled-past will also lend to a Cap-favorable contract. A contract could get near the $4M per year amount, but is likely to stay around $3M - $3.5M range. I believe this is a no-brainer to re-sign him, however the CBJ faithful are split on his future.
If you don't re-sign him does he have value in a trade? Yes, he has value, but his value is less on the trade market than on the ice. That is, if he stays on-ice. A team may be willing to give up as high as a 2nd round pick, but more likely a 3rd, which would not be worth it. Offer sheet value (based upon contract value) is a 2nd round pick. CBJ should sign him. Period.
Eric Robinson and Lukas Sedlak
Both of these players spent time with the CBJ this season. They have salaries less than $1M and would see time on the 3rd/4th line. The difference is that I believe we have seen what Sedlak's potential is but have yet to see exactly what Robinson could do. Robinson could crack the top 6 but Sedlak is a bottom 6 forward. Until Robinson forces his way into the top 6 he will get paid like a 3rd liner at best. Both should and will get a contract at sub-$1.5M.
Current Salary: $700,000
Due to the rise of Vladislav Gavrikov, the solid play of Kukan and Harrington coupled with the return of Nutivaara and (hopefully) Murray, Clendening becomes the odd-man-out. He may get tendered a contract and given a chance to make the team, but should spend most of (if not all) the season in Cleveland or on another team. No chance of an offer sheet here and very little trade value.
Current Salary: 675,000
Draft: 2011, 2nd Round (PIT)
Given the chance in the playoffs, he was solid in the bottom pair. If Murray and Nutivaara would have been healthy he would not have played in the post season. He is a great insurance policy at a low cost, around $1M.
Current Salary: 863,333
Draft: 2014, 1st Round, 16 Overall
This is a curious situation. To start, I have no insider information, and these views are merely speculation. Sonny was on the 2016 Calder Cup Championship team with Werenski, Kukan, Korpi, Sedlak, Anderson and Bjorkstrand. In 2018 he saw significant time with a playoff-bound CBJ team scoring 14 goals. This past season he played only 8 NHL games scoring one goal. Did he fall out of favor with Torts? My guess is that he did more than 'fall out of favor' with Torts, but I have nothing to confirm this. On the other hand he didn't get traded at the deadline and may not get traded at the draft. His use at the AHL level rather than in the NHL would lead me to believe that Torts and Jarmo may not see eye-to-eye on this player.
His talent means he will get re-signed and an invite to training camp. It may also mean he gets traded. All signs point to him being an NHL roster player, if not in Columbus, somewhere.
Sam Vigneault, Ryan MacInnis, Justin Scott and Doyle Somerby
These are the remaining RFAs. They have varying experience and success in the AHL. There are other players ahead of them in the pecking order to make the Bid Squad. None on this list will crack the CBJ roster within the next season. They all could be re-signed, but not to NHL contracts.
Not surprising that Werenski is due a huge pay increase. He is not likely to get offer-sheeted as the CBJ would match.
Merzlikins got signed, again for only one year and no Cap hit was disclosed. He will challenge for a starting spot.
Korpi should be in-the-mix for starting goaltender next year. If he, Merzlikins and Kinkaid all sign, the CBJ are likely to play goalie-by-committee next season.
Ryan Murray is a top-pair defensman that could be signed to a value contract. The CBJ should make this signing. He could have been the difference against BOS.