The Columbus Blue Jackets stunned the hockey world last week by signing Johnny Gaudreau. While the addition of the 28-year-old winger provides a major boost to their offense, the move complicates their efforts to sign Patrik Laine.
A restricted free agent, the 24-year-old Laine is coming off a one-year, $7.5-million contract. He'll be seeking a raise on perhaps a long-term deal. However, Cap Friendly indicates the Jackets have just $2.3 million in projected cap space for 2022-23.
That's prompted speculation that Laine could receive an offer sheet from a rival club hoping to take advantage of the Jackets' cap constraints. The Athletic's Aaron Portzline believes the winger's decision not to file for arbitration by last Sunday's deadline suggests contract talks remain amicable. Nevertheless, it still makes him a potential offer-sheet target.
Assuming Laine isn't receptive to an offer sheet or rival clubs consider him too expensive to sign, the Jackets still must shed salary to sign him before the start of 2022-23. Portzline suggested Gustav Nyquist as a trade candidate. The 32-year-old winger carries a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Nyquist lacks no-trade protection and is coming off a 53-point performance last season after missing all of 2020-21 recovering from shoulder surgery. He reached or exceeded 40 points in eight straight NHL campaigns stretching back to 2013-14 with the Detroit Red Wings.
A playoff contender seeking a second-line forward could take an interest in Nyquist. However, they could attempt to squeeze them for a sweetener such as a draft pick or a prospect.