The Columbus Blue Jackets have a busy summer ahead of them.
That is, if they intend to fill some of the holes in their lineup. They need top-end talent in the worst way and they have plenty of cap room to spare. As they try to re-sign Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene (though both appear unlikely, at best, right now), they may have to look at some outside options as well.
Here are three players the Blue Jackets should have their eyes on come July 1, if not sooner. This is the "negotiating period," after all.
Nyquist is a Swedish forward who has been a beacon of consistency for any team he's played for, including the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks. For the past half dozen seasons, Nyquist has surpassed 40 points. If you need a player in your top-six that you can rely on, Nyquist is your guy.
He carried a cap hit that is just below $5 million, and coming into this offseason, you bet he'll be looking for a raise. How high will it go, and just how many years is he going to be asking for when all is said and done?
Nyquist is a player that you want on your team, but not someone that you want to sell the ranch for.
Similar to Nyquist, Zuccarello just consistently performs. It makes him a popular player this summer and because of it, a lot of teams are going to be calling for his services. At $4.5 million a year prior to this, Zuccarello is going to go check-chasing and it will be important for a team to keep that number in line.
Zuccarello (despite injury issues this past year) is mostly healthy and his finesse style of play lends itself well to a longer career. He can play anywhere in your top six and can distribute the puck, as well.
No one is going to be able to replace the distribution that Panarin provided as a winger, but Zuccarello will do a good job replacing part of it.
This is a player the Blue Jackets should go after hardest. He fills a couple of needs and would make for a great leader for a Blue Jackets club that may be needing one during this transitional phase.
Pavelski is a high-end scorer and he puts the puck in the back of the net. His age is a tough issue to crack, considering that he's now 34 and coming off a big injury during the postseason. Are you going to be able to offer him enough dollars and term to pry him away from the San Jose Sharks? He is a lifer there, and to draw him away, it would take a massive amount of money.
It will also depend on where Pavelski's priorities are going into the offseason and into free agency.
The bottom line here: the Blue Jackets need to come out and make waves this offseason, but it will need to be done responsibly. Tread lightly in free agency, folks.
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