Could Nick Foligno find his way back to Columbus?
The former Blue Jackets captain was dealt near the trade deadline to Toronto in exchange for a first-round pick. The deal didn't work out too well for the Maple Leafs, who crashed out of the playoffs in the first round as Foligno tallied just one assist in the postseason.
Yesterday, Elliotte Friedman reported that it was unlikely Foligno would return to the Maple Leafs. On July 28th, the 33-year-old will officially become an unrestricted free agent. If Friedman's right (and he usually is), there are really only two landing spots that make sense for Foligno: Columbus and Minnesota. Foligno's brother, Marcus, plays for the Wild.
In a pretty shocking move earlier this week, the Wild bought out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise simultaneously, giving them short-term cap flexibility. Right now, CapFriendly projects the Wild as having $26.3 million in cap space, but that number will shrink after they (hopefully, for their sake) come to terms with RFAs Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov. Even after that, they'll still have lots of room for Foligno, if the two can come to a deal.
If Columbus is the frontrunner, and they have the opportunity to sign Foligno, it shouldn't just be for sentimental reasons. Yes, he was the captain for six years, many of which were incredibly successful. However, he still needs to be able to provide something to the 2021-22 Blue Jackets. Currently, the Blue Jackets have 13 forwards under contract for next season. That doesn't include Kole Sherwood, Patrik Laine, and Alexandre Texier, who are restricted free agents. Those 13 are:
- Cam Atkinson
- Oliver Bjorkstrand
- Max Domi
- Boone Jenner
- Jack Roslovic
- Kevin Stenlund
- Eric Robinson
- Emil Bemstrom
- Yegor Chinakhov
- Gregory Hofmann
- Nathan Gerbe
- Justin Danforth
- Gustav Nyquist
If the Seattle Kraken select a Blue Jackets forward in the upcoming expansion draft, that list will look a little different. It's known that the Blue Jackets front office loves Eric Robinson, so there is a chance of them exposing Nyquist or Domi. Nyquist missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and Domi will miss the first part of this upcoming season with a shoulder injury.
After the expansion draft and (hopefully) the signings of Texier, Sherwood, and Laine to deals, the Blue Jackets will either be working with 15 or 16 forwards on one-way or two-way deals. When you look at the list and think about bringing Foligno back, you have to be sure that he'll make more of an impact than other forwards.
This projects to be a difficult year for the Blue Jackets, who are coming into the season with a lot of unknowns. What will newcomers Gregory Hofmann and Justin Danforth provide? Will Yegor Chinakhov begin the season in the NHL? Will Gustav Nyquist be back to his old self? When will Max Domi be able to return? Will Seattle take a forward?
And those are just some of the questions about one position group. The blue line and goaltenders have their own set of them, too.
With all those questions and a lack of answers, it makes sense for the Blue Jackets to bring Foligno back on a one or two-year, team-friendly deal. They know what they have in Foligno. He'll grind and battle for pucks, and he knows and loves this organization. He's not going to light up the scoresheet, but he can be a good fourth-line piece and mentor for younger players like Bemstrom, Chinakhov, Texier, and Laine.