With Seven Restricted Free Agents, The Columbus Blue Jackets May Be Making Some Difficult Decisions In The Near Future

By Dan Dukart on June 10, 2024 at 10:15 am
Kirill Marchenko and Alexandre Texier celebrate a goal
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets head into the offseason with a laundry list of to-do's. 

Somewhere on that list is to assess their crop of restricted free agents (RFAs). The Blue Jackets have seven such players, whose rights are owned by the club. RFAs can sign with their current team, or other teams can sign them with the seldom-utilized offer sheet (at which point the owning team can match - or not, and receive draft pick compensation). 

Blue Jackets RFA's
Name Age Arbitration Eligible
Yegor Chinakhov 23 No
Kirill Marchenko 23 Yes
Alexander Nylander 26 Yes
Cole Sillinger 21 No
Alexandre Texier 24 Yes
Kent Johnson 21 No
Jake Bean 26 Yes

With new GM Don Waddell at the helm, the front office will be tasked with re-assessing the current and future state of the roster. Conventional wisdom dictates that a given club retains the majority of their RFAs - they own the players' rights, after all - but there are plenty of instances where a team won't 'qualify' a player, essentially allowing them to become unrestricted and able to sign with any other of the 31 teams. 

For a team that finished near the NHL's basement, there are a surprising number of NHL contracts that they will need to sort out. Counting the six forwards above and Patrik Laine, the Blue Jackets have 15 forwards on the books for next year. In other words, re-signing all of these players may not be in the cards, even if that was preferred. 

It will be interesting to see if Waddell looks to consolidate these players in a trade, where the acquiring team would be happy to have a cost-controlled and young player for another contract. Also worth monitoring will be how Waddell and co. manage to negotiate with these players. Former GM Jarmo Kekalainen was a notoriously difficult negotiator for RFAs, and he often referred to "holding the hammer" before the players have leverage when they become UFAs. Finally, I wonder if another team doesn't use the aforementioned-seldomly-used offer sheet to try to poach a player in a rising salary cap environment. 

It wouldn't surprise me if the club moves on from Jake Bean, and Alexander Nylander may be a classic 'sell-high' candidate (if there are any takers). Cole Sillinger took a major step in the right direction last year, and Kent Johnson, who is the lone 10.2(c) RFA - he cannot even theoretically be offer-sheeted - seems like an obvious bridge deal candidate. Yegor Chinakhov and Kirill Marchenko both had solid years last season, and I wonder if their representation thinks they, too, would be better served on shorter-term deals, where they'll be able to cash in on a rising salary cap/improved production in the future. Put another way, I would expect the majority of these players back next year, but I wouldn't put it in Sharpie marker. 

With the NHL Draft later this month and free agency starting in July, there will be plenty of tasks to keep the front office occupied. But sorting through these RFAs will remain a priority.

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