Despite a team record 262 goals, the Columbus Blue Jackets had only four players who scored 20 goals and added 20 assists this season. Two of them: Boone Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand, cornerstone players who are signed for the long haul.
Another one is Patrik Laine, who is getting all the buzz as the team's signature RFA.
The fourth is also a restricted free agent, but getting only a tiny fraction of that buzz: Jack Roslovic.
The Columbus native, who was acquired with Laine in 2021's Pierre-Luc Dubois trade, struggled early in the 2021-22 season. His steady improvement as the season went on led to career highs in goals, assists, and points. The last quarter of his season carried nearly double the production as the first half, and Roslovic had as many points (16) in the last 21 games of the season as he did in the first 40.
*One extra game
His stat line of 22-23-45 is more impressive when you consider that he averaged just 14:17 of ice time per game. That's ranked 6th among forwards who played at least 41 games (half the season) during the year. The double-edged sword in that is that the argument could be made that if Roslovic had a stronger game without the puck, the minutes would have likely been higher, and in turn, his point total would have been higher. In fact, by points per 60 minutes, Roslovic's 2.33 figure trailed only Laine (3.19), Jakub Voracek (2.70), and Bjorkstrand (2.38).
These are important figures to consider as Roslovic enters his restricted free agent status. His three-year, $3.4 million entry-level contract came to an end at the conclusion of the season, and the 25-year-old forward now enters the first of two years in the restricted status.
The website Evolving-Hockey, in conjunction with CapFriendly, offers a contract projection feature based on a number of factors. It projects Roslovic to get a deal that would average just over four million per season. That seems like a steep increase, but is in the ballpark of what players of equal production make.
What the Blue Jackets decide to do with Roslovic is going to be an intriguing storyline to watch play out. Like the team did with Laine last season, they could do a one-year bridge deal that would keep Roslovic in Columbus this season, and then do this all again next summer (but with one year left until he becomes unrestricted).
They could also go ahead and sign Roslovic to a longer-term deal that would carry him through the rest of his restricted period and also into unrestricted years. That would be a clear indication that the organization sees him as a key player, particularly considering the influx of established offensive ability that is here (Laine, Bjorkstrand, Jenner), potential offensive ability (Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, Alexandre Texier), and incoming potential offensive ability (Kirill Marchenko, Kent Johnson).
A two-year option is also an option for the team, bringing Roslovic through the remaining two years of the restricted status and into free agency at the conclusion of the 2023-24 season. If general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the rest of the Blue Jackets brass has confidence in Roslovic, a three-year (or longer) deal would seem to be the smarter play.
With the Blue Jackets wholly and publicly committed to Laine (and vice versa), what Columbus decides to do with Roslovic has the potential to be the most curious storyline of the offseason.
And now, we wait.