So now what?
After signing Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson to contracts with a combined AAV of $13.75M, the Blue Jackets have $2,341,667 in cap space, according to capfriendly.com. However, in order to get to the maximum of 23 players on the roster, the Jackets will have to move some players to the minors, which will add to the NHL team's cap space. So, that number above is a bit misleading. For example, if they moved the contracts of Daniil Tarasov, Gavin Bayreuther, Carson Meyer, Mathieu Olivier, and Brendan Gaunce to the minors, that would give them $6,404,167 in cap space. I'm not saying they will move those exact players but by the time opening night hits some players will have to be sent to the minors, and moving those players would give the Jackets a roster of 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies. This would come after taking Boone Jenner and Alexandre Texier off of the IR. With that being said, three restricted free agents in the organization do not have a contract for the 2022-23 season: Patrik Laine, Emil Bemstrom, and Trey Fix-Wolansky.
Laine did not file for salary arbitration and can accept a $7.5M qualifying offer. While doing so would put the Jackets over the $82.5M upper limit, teams can exceed that limit by 10% during the off-season and only have to be cap-compliant by opening night of the regular season, which is October 12.
Blue Jackets with trade protection this season:— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) July 14, 2022
Johnny Gaudreau: NMC
Oliver Bjorkstrand: M-NTC
Sean Kuraly: M-NTC
Boone Jenner: M-NTC
Elvis Merzlikins: M-NTC
Erik Gudbranson: M-NTC#CBJhttps://t.co/hab22VO8Ve
Now, if they do sign Laine, they will have to move between $2M-$5M in cap space, depending on how big Laine's cap hit is. The most likely candidate to be a salary cap casualty is forward Gustav Nyquist, who has one year left on his deal at a cap hit of $5.5M. Aside from Nyquist, Oliver Bjorkstrand has four years left with a cap hit of $5.4M on his contract but has a modified no-trade clause. Additionally, Jake Bean has two years left on his contract at a $2.33M cap hit and Vladislav Gavrikov has one year left on his pact at a $2.8M cap hit before he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. However, if the Jackets look to trade any of these players, they will likely have little leverage as the other team will know that they need to shed that salary to sign Laine and be compliant in time for the start of the season.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out over the course of the off-season, but if the Jackets want to keep Laine for next season and beyond, they may have to part ways with a key player. That's the business of the NHL's hard cap.