The Columbus Blue Jackets have an underrated asset in their hip pocket: cap space.
According to CapFriendly, the preeminent source for salary cap information in the NHL, the Blue Jackets head into the 2019-20 season with $8.7M in cap space, more than any other franchise other than the Ottawa Senators, a team fully in rebuild mode.
That the Blue Jackets have so much cap space is a commentary of several fronts. On the one hand, it's telling after a summer in which approximately $35M worth of (current) contracts leaving via UFA, with Gus Nyquist coming in as the only relatively expensive piece ($5.5M AAV). It also speaks to GM Jarmo Kekalainen's ability to sign players to reasonable contracts, with several players grossly underpaid (Josh Anderson/Seth Jones) and really only one or two players (Brandon Dubinsky/Nick Foligno) that are truly 'overpaid'. Look no further than the crease, where the club has the lowest combined cap hit for goalies of any team in the NHL. Lastly, it speaks to the organization's youth, with five players on their entry-level contract (ELC) (Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom, Vladislav Gavrikov, Jakob Lilja) and two more (Sonny Milano and Elvis Merzlikins) making less than $1M AAV.
Having excess cap space is also an advantage when it comes to claiming players off waivers. The Blue Jackets have 47 of the 50 permitted NHL contracts on their books. Should a quality player become available - at a higher cap hit or otherwise - the organization is in a place where they'll have the ability to do so.
Cap space doesn't roll over year to year. The Blue Jackets should weaponize their cap space, something we've suggested in the past. If the club gets off to a hot start and finds themselves as buyers, they'll have that flexibility, whereas other teams may have to make concessions to acquire additional players. If they have a tough start to the year and find themselves sellers at the trade deadline, they could similarly take on a bad contract to acquire assets that will help them in the future.
No matter how the season plays out, having more cap space than just about any other NHL team is an asset, and the Blue Jackets would be smart to leverage that advantage.