It's always fun to look ahead, isn't it?
There are several players on the Blue Jackets roster without a contract for the 2023-24 season that are already eligible for a contract extension. Most notably, defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and forward Gustav Nyquist are scheduled to be UFAs, and defenseman Andrew Peeke and forwards Yegor Chinakov and Alexandre Texier are scheduled to be RFAs after this season. Nyquist was rumored to be traded following Patrik Laine's extension with the team but is still on the roster following the club moving Oliver Bjorkstrand to Seattle.
According to capfriendly.com, the Jackets have 16 players under contract for the '23-'24 season and $14,679,167 in projected cap space. If they want to keep all five players listed above for the '23-'24 season, they should have enough cap space to do so. But what about players from around the league that are scheduled to be UFA next summer?
Barring any significant cap moves, it's unlikely that the Jackets would be in the market for any of the top players on the market like they were this year when they signed Johnny Gaudreau on the heels of a 115-point season. Those types of players will likely cost between $9M-$10M on the open market, which would leave the Jackets with around $5M in cap space to sign the players I mentioned above. That's not to say they won't surprise everyone and land another superstar free agent and move money around to be cap compliant with good squad depth, however. Additionally, this season's performances, on the NHL roster, in the minors, and in other leagues, will go a long way in determining what moves the team will be prepared to make next summer. For example, will Adam Boqvist or Nick Blankenburg take another step in their development and therefore make Gavrikov expendable either at the deadline or in free agency? After this season, how close will defensive prospects David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, and Corson Ceulemans be to playing in the NHL? What about Jake Bean? Does he make a big jump from last season as one of the three left-shot defensemen on the NHL roster? Does Kirill Marchenko make a splash as a rookie and make Nyquist available for a deadline deal?
All of these questions will be answered on the ice. Well, technically they'll be answered by Jarmo Kekalainen, but the on-ice play will likely influence his decision-making process heading into the 2023 off-season. Don't look now, but the first game of the 2022-23 regular season is just over two months away.