Entering Final Season With Blue Jackets, There Is A Lot To Like With What Veteran Gus Nyquist Provides

By Will Chase on August 2, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Gustav Nyquist chases the puck in the first period against the Edmonton Oilers at Nationwide Arena.
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Show up and show out?

That's what Gus Nyquist can do. He's been doing so since signing his four-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 1, 2019.

As recently as a few weeks ago, there might have been a little uncertainty as to which core member of the Blue Jackets would be part of the team for next season. We knew one domino would fall in lieu of the Patrik Laine contract extension and there were a few names to boil up to the surface as a possible name on the move.

With Oliver Bjorkstrand being that player on the move out west to the Seattle Kraken, the speculation and rumors are over. For now. While we may not know to what extent other names were mentioned, there were plausible scenarios as to why Nyquist's name made sense as a cap casualty and was at least mentioned among fans and inquisitive social media general managers.

As to whether the Blue Jackets ever seriously shopped Nyquist or checked in to see what kind of value there was to be had, the fact of the matter was there wouldn't be as much value for a player entering his walk year.

Don't you think even Bjorkstrand would have fetched more than a few middling 2023 draft picks if 31 other teams didn't smell the desperation of Jarmo Kekalainen being forced to shed salary so his team was cap compliant?

And Bjorkstrand is a guy who has been one of the better point producers for the Blue Jackets, leading the team in goals each of the last three seasons. He pulled off the trifecta in 2020-21 when he also led the team in assists and points.

The longer Kekalainen waited, the possibility he risked a smaller return. Fans can fret about losing the kind of player Bjorktrand is but they can also think about at least four combined years of Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine ahead, and a time in which the contention window should be wide-open for the Blue Jackets.

You can also see the value Nyquist brings to the Blue Jackets, which is likely more valuable than what you would fetch in return via trade. At least at this time.

We've talked about the kind of year Nyquist had last season, playing in all 82 games after missing the entire season before recovering from the labral tear in his left shoulder. The 2021-22 season was just the second time in his career that the 32-year-old,10-year, NHLer had played all 82 games, the first since 2017-18 with the Detroit Red Wings.

Nyquist's 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists), fourth-most on the team last season, were the third-most he's had in a season. The 35 assists he dished out were third behind Jake Voracek (56) and two behind Zach Werenski (37). The 18 goals placed him fifth on the team behind Oliver Bjorkstrand (28), Patrik Laine (26), Boone Jenner (23), and Jack Roslovic (22).

One area that has been pretty invaluable for the Blue Jackets is having Nyquist on the penalty kill. That's been the case going back to his first season with the club in 2019-20 under John Tortorella when he really got his first shot on the penalty kill. He led the team with four shorthanded goals last season—scoring all four in just under two months, coincidently all losses—after having only one career such goal in his first year with the club.

Among all players with at least 100 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill, Nyquist was 24th in GF/60 (2.06), 39th in GA/60 (5.35), eighth in GF% (27.78), 26th in xGF/60 (1.57), 64th in xGA/60 (6.65), and first on the Blue Jackets in individual goals per 60 (1.65)—third overall—per Natural Stat Trick.

Because Nyquist is entering the final season of his contract, making $5.5 million for the upcoming season, he could be among the first trade deadline candidates to be dealt, depending on the direction of the season for the team. There was a case to be made for trading him last season, in part because of how well Nyquist was performing, and at that time, having still a full season of control left on his contract.

However, both parties think highly of the other and while that doesn't fully negate the idea of a trade, or even that he'll be re-signed in a year, there certainly feels like a chance of an extension at some point. A lot will factor into the need for the team and a plethora of forwards on the roster and in the system.

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