The NHL has become synonymous with parity, to the point where a team in last place in the entire league on January 3 won the Stanley Cup just six months later. One of the great equalizers in the game is the salary cap, and by extension, player contracts. With a hard salary cap, contract figures - both length and AAV - (average annual value) are consistently scrutinized as "good" or "bad" contracts.
The Blue Jackets, like all other teams, have good and bad contracts, but generally do a good job in not handing out contracts that become albatrosses. They're legitimately unique in some ways. They're the only team in the NHL with no current contracts at or over $6M AAV (though that could change with RFA Zach Werenski). They're also following a trend by allocating less money to their goalies, which is obviously related to the departure of Sergei Bobrovsky.
As contracts are so important to the success of each NHL team, we've ranked each of the Blue Jackets players contracts from best to worst. A couple of quick caveats, though. First, we're not ranking players on entry-level contracts (ELCs), who are supremely underpaid on their first contract. It goes without saying that Pierre-Luc Dubois, for example, is on a ridiculously good contract at $925k per season. Any NHL contributor on an entry-level contract is a boon for the team. Also, as Werenski remains an RFA, he is not part of this ranking.
1. Seth Jones
Jones is the runaway best contract on the team. He's 24-years old, an elite defender in the NHL at a staggeringly low AAV, and he's under contract for three more seasons. What more could you want?
2. Josh Anderson
The way the NHL's salary cap is designed, RFAs are at the mercy of their NHL teams, only to destroy them when they become UFAs. Hopefully, Anderson is forgiving, because the Blue Jackets are paying their 27-goal right-winger a criminally low $1.85M AAV. His contract expires after this year (he remains an RFA), but for now, it's one of the better deals in the NHL.
3. Oliver Bjorkstrand
Towards the end of the season, Bjorkstrand finally realized the potential that has had the organization so excited for years. He scored 23 goals and is signed for two more seasons at a more-than-reasonable $2.5M AAV, at which point he's still an RFA. Hard to complain about that.
4. Markus Nutivaara
Nutivaara is a 25-year old who is comfortable playing in a second or third pairing capacity but still has the potential to become a full-fledged top-four defenseman. At $2.7M for the next three years, he's an inexpensive option that is gold as trade bait.
5. Cam Atkinson
Atkinson is an interesting case, because his $5.875M (highest on the team) is extremely affordable for a 35-40 goal scorer, but his term is worrisome. At age 30, he's still got six more years on his contract. While that is very appealing in 2019, it's difficult to rate this contract as a top-flight deal, given what we know about aging curves.
6. Elvis Merzlikins
Merzlikins is the first wild-card on this ranking. On a one-year deal at just $874,125, he's among the cheapest goalies in the NHL, let alone a potential starter. He's set to become an RFA, which is even more appealing. Years from now, Blue Jackets fans could be thinking back to a year where the team wasn't a Stanley Cup contender where Merzlikins was making pennies on the dollar.
7. Gustav Nyquist
Nyquist is a perfect combination of reasonable term and AAV, especially given his age (he'll be 30 when the season starts). It's not an overly cheap deal at $5.5M for four years, but he's a productive player that figures to be a top-six guy for the next few seasons. That's the definition of reasonable.
8. Boone Jenner
At $3.75M for the next three years, Jenner is a tricky contract to figure. In an 82-game regular season, the versatile forward sometimes leaves us wanting more, but in the playoffs, he's the type of player you want on the ice. He's a veteran leader and at age 26, the Blue Jackets will get three more good years out of him. After that, who knows, but that's for a different day.
9. Dean Kukan
The Blue Jackets have given Kukan the 'slow and steady' treatment. He just turned 26 and is primed to take the next step. That's perfect if you're Columbus, who would be happy to play a player they believe is capable of being a quality NHL defenseman, and good for Kukan, who could be in for a bigger payday next year. In the meantime, he's making $750k on the second half of a two-year contract, and he'll be an RFA when it expires.
10. Ryan Murray
Murray is one of the more difficult players to rank. On the surface, a player of his ilk making $4.6M for the next two seasons (while buying one of his UFA years) is incredibly reasonable. On the other, he's played not even 2/3's of his potential NHL career games due to injury. If he's healthy, it's a bargain. If he's not, it's $4.6M against the cap.
11. David Savard
Savard opened some eyes with his play in the playoffs. He's got a lot going for him right now, being a right-handed shot defenseman with size, experience, and perhaps under-appreciated offensive chops. At 28, the Blue Jackets have an excellent trade chip, as the $4.25M for the next two seasons is incredibly fair for a middle-pairing defenseman who can kill penalties and log big minutes. He would be ranked higher if not for the fact that he'll be a UFA in two seasons.
12. Joonas Korpisalo
In many ways, Korpisalo's contract resembles that of Merzlikins. If he proves to be a capable starter with good numbers, the Blue Jackets have a starting goalie for virtually no money ($1.15M) and no term (one year). He'll be an RFA after this season. Needless to say, between the two netminders, the contract values could be drastically different in a year's time.
13. Riley Nash
Nash, like Jenner, is the kind of player you may not appreciate until a) he's missing from the lineup or b) the playoffs. Still, he's a cheap contract for a Swiss army knife of a player, making just $2.75M for the next two seasons. Things could be worse.
14. Eric Robinson
Robinson is a player with much to prove. The club's only non-ELC, waiver exempt forward, the speedy forward will make $874k in the NHL... and just $70k in the AHL. The Blue Jackets will love a motivated Robinson, who was seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough before the trade deadline acquisitions relieved him of a spot. Still, he's a cheap ticket with virtually no downside.
15. Adam Clendening
Clendening showed well for himself in the playoffs and got a two-year, two-way contract to show for it. He'll be making $700k at the NHL level the next two years, which is obviously incredibly affordable. This ranking is not intended to be an indictment of how good/bad his contract is. If anything, it shows the Blue Jackets have done well to avoid bad contracts.
16. Nick Foligno
For all that we love about Foligno - the captaincy, him being the heart and soul of the team, the fact that he can play PP and PK - his contract is far from perfect. At age 31, his best days are behind him, and with two more years at $5.5M, his production likely won't match his pay... And that's okay! Again, the Blue Jackets are unique in that they really don't have many burdensome contracts, so Foligno's ranking is really a testament to management's quality asset management.
17. Scott Harrington
When the Blue Jackets signed Harrington to a three-year contract extension ($1.63M AAV) last week, my first thought was, meh. Not much has changed since then. It's a small commitment for a fringe NHL defenseman and the club bought three years of cost certainty. Like others on this list, it could be worse.
18. Markus Hannikainen
Hannikainen is in a precarious spot. The club re-signed him for one year at $750k, which is fine. He'll be a UFA after this year, and I'd be surprised if the club brings him back after that. His low ranking is more of a commentary on the player, who is probably not an NHL player, even in a fourth-line capacity, at this point. But again, it's definitely not a "bad contract"...
19. Alexander Wennberg
There's really no sugarcoating this. If he can somehow regain his confidence and offensive production, it's a very reasonable contract, at $4.9M AAV over the next four seasons. Unfortunately for him, he's got 10 goals in his past 141 games, including just two a season ago. Silver lining: he's still an NHL-level center (at least, in my eyes), and having him in a bottom-six capacity isn't the worst thing in the world.
20. Brandon Dubinsky
Dubinsky may be the only truly "bad" contract on this team. That speaks extremely well to the organization, which has recently (aside from David Clarkson) completely avoided the short and long-term consequences of doling out bad contracts. At $5.85M for the next two years, Dubinsky is the second-highest-paid player on the team behind Atkinson. And while it appears the team won't buy his contract out this year, it would not be surprising at all if it was next season. It's simply too much coin for a 4th line player, and his advanced age (33) doesn't help the cause. And while he's the worst contract on this team in 2019, he's far from the worst contracts out there in the NHL today.
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