With roughly six weeks until the beginning of a new season, ten (!) NHL teams are over the $81.5 million salary cap.
If you're a team under the cap, like the Columbus Blue Jackets are, this is music to your ears - especially if you're looking to add one more piece to your team at a discounted return rate.
Only five teams (Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, and New Jersey) have more cap space available than the Blue Jackets, and at least four of those teams are unlikely to be a contender in the upcoming season.
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way before we go any further: while the Blue Jackets have a shade over nine million dollars in cap room available, they do still need to get restricted free agent Pierre-Luc Dubois signed, and that will eat somewhere between half and three-quarters of the cap room.
So, let's take $9.2 million and adjust it to the roughly $4 million that it will actually be once Dubois is signed.
Plenty of names will be made available before the season starts for teams to be able to get under the cap. Two elite teams - the Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Louis Blues - are well over the cap and are going to need to move at least one quality player before the season starts. The Blues are trying to move 34-year-old center Tyler Bozak, but he wouldn't move the needle at all for the Blue Jackets - they signed an aging-but-still-talented center in Mikko Koivu just last month.
However, it's another Tyler that could be a far more intriguing option: Tampa's Tyler Johnson. He carries a five million dollar cap hit over the next four seasons, which makes Lightning management cringe. Short of moving a younger player like Ondrej Palat or Yanni Gourde, Tampa will almost have to move Johnson before the season starts. They waived him in October, but no one was willing to bail the Lightning out, so, it was back to the drawing board.
Johnson, 30, is a versatile forward who scored 14 goals and added 17 assists in 65 games this year, but is only one season removed from a 29 goal, 47 point season on a good team. He would project as a second line player on the Blue Jackets, and would give the Blue Jackets one more offseason offensive boost.
Or, if Blue Jackets brass feels that they need to ensure that they've got three solid lines of defense, does Kekalainen call the Edmonton Oilers to ask about Adam Larsson? At a $4.1 million dollar cap hit this season, the big Swede wouldn't be "cheap", but the 28-year-old stay-at-home defenseman has had his name surface in trade rumors, and if Columbus wants to give themselves an even better defense, the Oilers would have to listen: they're more than a million dollars over the cap.
The options will be there for the Blue Jackets - but first things first: let's get Dubois signed.