How Will the Blue Jackets Retain Their Top Players Moving Forward? It's Not As Tough As It May Seem

By Peter Fish on August 12, 2019 at 1:03 am
The Columbus Blue Jackets bench celebrates after defeating the New York Rangers in a shoot out at Madison Square Garden.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sport

As a part of the NHL's 31-in-31 feature on the Blue Jackets, one of the questions was how will the club retain their best players moving forward.

They are one of seven teams to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past three seasons, a fact Kekalainen said makes them attractive to players and will keep them competitive.

"Why wouldn't you want to play in Columbus for the Columbus Blue Jackets if you care about winning and you can play in a great city and play for a great ownership in great facilities?" he said.

Atkinson said he enjoys playing in Columbus.

"You want guys who want to be here, want to live here, and it's amazing how that can take your team to another level," he said. "Guys really invested in the city and the fans, and they invested in us back. That marriage is what brings you together and bonds you to this team."

What we received was, of course, a bunch on non-answers. They did not address what it would take or what they would do to keep players in Columbus or if there even is a risk of losing their top players in the first place, so let's dive into this.

The Blue Jackets' top players in no order: Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Gustav Nyquist, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray.

The Offense

Atkinson is signed for the next six seasons (at $5.875M annually) and Nyquist just signed a four-year deal at $5.5M annually, so they're both safe.

Dubois and Anderson will be RFAs next season. Dubois will not have arbitration rights, while Anderson will, meaning the Blue Jackets will be in a position to sign them to long-term deals and they have the cap space to do that.

Bjorkstrand has two seasons left on his current deal and then will be a RFA with arbitration rights, giving the Blue Jackets the power to sign him long-term if they choose to do so.

The Defense

Seth Jones is signed for the next three seasons and will be a UFA when his contract is up. It would be a shock if Jones left Columbus, but it's going to cost the Blue Jackets a massive sum of money to lock him in. The market price for elite defensemen has continued to rise, and with Jones in the conversation among the league's best, it could cost upwards of $10M annually.

Zach Werenski is currently a RFA and just like the rest of the market, neither the teams nor the players want to be the first to sign and set the market for the rest of the clubs. This deal will get done – it will just be a matter of timing. The main question will be whether he receives a bridge contract to his last season as an RFA or a long-term deal that will take him to UFA status. Either way, he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Ryan Murray isn't at the same stardom level of Jones, but could leave a year earlier than Jones. On any given night can be one of the best if not the best defenseman on the ice, but with that upside comes his injury history. Additionally, the Blue Jackets have a glutton of players on the defensive side of the puck, and while losing Murray would be a blow to the defense, they would survive.


Despite the issues surrounding the departures of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets don't have to worry about another top player leaving for at least two more seasons and by then, there could be other players who are ready to step up and take their place. But make no mistake: signing Jones when the time comes will be priority No. 1.