That's what every NHL team including the Jackets will be going through this off-season. Teams will have to lose valuable players and assets to stay under the salary cap for next season, which is set at $82.5MM. Here are some players I think the Jackets should try and acquire this off-season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are already over the cap for next season, and the Jackets have two first-round picks, sixth and 12th overall. Cirelli, who will be 25 next season, has a $4.8MM cap hit through the 2022-23 season and has proven to be worth much more than that. He's elite on the defensive side of the puck and has shown offensive prowess as well, scoring 15+ goals three times in his career. The reason his numbers are not as high as his talent could produce is because of the team he's on in Tampa. I don't know if Lightning G.M. Julien BriesBois is thinking about moving on from Cirelli, but I would be fine parting with the 12th overall pick if it meant bringing him to Columbus. That would mean the centers for the future are 29-year-old Boone Jenner, 19-year-old Cole Sillinger, and 25-year-old Anthony Cirelli. That's pretty good.
Palat is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) who has scored 40+ points every year for the last three seasons. He is part of the Palat-Point-Kucherov line that helped Tampa win back-to-back cups. He's 31 years old so I do not expect him to command a long-term contract, but a short-term deal with the Jackets could boost their play on the wings. I don't know how likely of a possibility this is, but it's something that the Jackets would love.
If the Jackets signed Copp, that would bring the total of Michigan Wolverines on the roster to four, alongside Zach Werenski, Kent Johnson, and Nick Blankenburg. But regardless of where he played college hockey, he's a fantastic player. Like Palat, Copp is a UFA who has shined with the Rangers since arriving in a trade from Winnipeg, scoring 18 points in 16 games and adding three goals in four playoff games. He can play both center and wing, and his versatility up and down a lineup is something that would be a great asset to the Jackets. I think his next contract will include a cap hit somewhere in the neighborhood of $5MM, which I think is a great deal and something the Jackets should explore.
If Jackets G.M. Jarmo Kekalainen wants to accelerate this rebuild, adding any of those three players would certainly do that.