How the NHL's Increasing Salary Cap Affects the Columbus Blue Jackets

By Coby Maeir on June 2, 2023 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets players celebrate after the game against the Buffalo Sabres at Nationwide Arena.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL salary cap is projected to increase by $1M to $83.5M for the 2023-24 season, then another $4M to $87.5M for 2024-25, and then another $4.5M to $92M for 2025-26, per This is a great thing for the NHL as a whole, but how does it affect the Blue Jackets over the next few seasons?

Long-Term Contracts

Johnny Gaudreau's $9.75M cap hit is the highest on the team and will take up 11.7% of the cap this season, but that percentage will drop to 11.1% in 2024-25 and 10.6% in 2025-26. With today's salary cap, 10.6% is $8.85M, which would be a bargain contract for Gaudreau, especially since he had 115 points heading into free agency in 2022.

Zach Werenski, whose contract is one year shorter than Gaudreau's, makes $9.583M against the cap, which is 11.5% this season. In 2025-26, his cap hit will take up 10.4% of the cap, which is equivalent to an $8.68M cap hit today. Again, another bargain deal for the Jackets. 

Patrik Laine is under contract through the 2025-26 season at an $8.7M cap hit that currently takes up 10.4% of the cap. In the final year of his deal, it will take up 9.5% of the cap, equal to a $7.93M cap hit in today's NHL. 

Elvis Merzlikins is entering the second year of a five-year deal that carries a cap hit of $5.4M through the 2026-27 season. His deal currently takes up 6.5% of the cap, but in three years, it will be just 5.9%, equivalent to $4.93M in today's league. This is important because if the Blue Jackets want to trade Merzlikins, the percentage of cap going down is going to make his contract a bit more appetizing after he posted the worst numbers of his career in 2022-23.

Erik Gudbranson will count $4M against the cap for the next three seasons. He currently makes up 4.8% of the cap, and will make up 4.3% of the cap in the final year of his deal, equal to $3.59M in today's league. 

Like Gudbranson, Boone Jenner is under contract through the 2025-26 season. His $3.75M cap hit makes up 4.5% of the cap and will make up 4% of it in the final year of his deal, which is $3.34M in today's salary cap, making it another great deal for the Blue Jackets. 

The first year of Andrew Peeke's three-year pact at $2.75M begins this season and will take up 3.3% of the cap in 2023-24 and 2.9% in 2025-26, which is equivalent to $2.42M today. 

Players looking to receive new deals in the future

Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko, Adam Boqvist, Cole Sillinger, and Yegor Chinakhov highlight the list of players that are scheduled to be restricted free agents either next summer or the summer of 2024. The salary cap going up will almost certainly have an impact on their negotiations with the Blue Jackets front office. For the higher-end players like Johnson and Marchenko, will they take a "bridge" or shorter-term deal out following their entry-level contracts to wait and see what exactly the salary cap looks like before they sign their first massive deal? Or will they command a big cap hit over a long-term deal knowing the cap will go up? How will the rising cap affect Boqvist, Sillinger, Chinakhov, and others? Those three players will likely need to prove that more at the NHL level both from a production and availability standpoint before they receive a big extension. 

What about Jack Roslovic? He's going to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2023-24 season. What kind of deal will he command, and what could he get on the open market?

The cap going up is going to give the Blue Jackets, along with the 31 other NHL teams, more financial flexibility and hopefully, for their sake, a chance to build a team that can compete for championships. 

Time will tell how much the cap actually rises, but if it's anything like the projections, the Blue Jackets have signed some great contracts.

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