New Jackets?: Eight Free Agents Who Could Help Fire The Cannon In 2024 And Beyond

By Ed Francis on June 30, 2024 at 1:02 pm
If the Blue Jackets want to add a veteran up the middle, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan are two possibilites.
© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency.

It's the wildest time of the offseason and it kicks off Monday. While the Columbus Blue Jackets are not expected to be major players in free agency this summer, they do have a few things going for them:

— Money to spend

— A talented, young core

— Motivated management

New President and General Manager Don Waddell said to expect as many as a half-dozen new faces on the roster come opening night, so it can safely be assumed that at least a couple of new names will join the club via free agency — even though Waddell is admittingly not a fan of it.

"Not crazy about July 1," said Waddell, referring to the opening day of free agency. "Some of the worst decisions in all of hockey are made on July 1."

But that doesn't mean that Waddell will sit free agency out, as he's also said that there are areas the team needs to improve. Trading Alexandre Texier to the St. Louis Blues on Friday, buying out Adam Boqvist, and not making an offer to Alex Nylander or Jake Bean are also moves indicative of change.

And while there is no "big splash" this year (well, probably not...), there are players that can come in and make an impact to a team that absolutely must be better this season than last. Additionally, it looks like there will be a couple of spots on the roster for veterans who can come in, be productive, and aid in changing the culture.

Here are five players on both sides of the puck that could get a look from Waddell and company and that may answer the call:


Elias Lindholm:

The biggest name on the list, Lindholm would make sense for a number of reasons. The 29-year-old center spent four seasons playing alongside Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary and the two were phenomenal together. Lindholm was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in February and never really got it going there, scoring six goals (two of which came in his first game with the team) and six assists in 26 games.

Lindholm enters free agency after completing a six year, $29.1 million contract with an average annual value of $4.85 million. He'll command a little more than that this time around, but is still within the Blue Jackets budget. Lindholm would project as the top line center in Columbus, allowing Adam Fantilli to slide to the second line and continue to develop. 

Sean Monahan:

Also 29 and also a former Flame, Monahan spent time on Calgary's top line with Lindholm and Gaudreau at various times between 2018 and 2022. He'll hit free agency after spending this past season with the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets, where he combined for 26 goals in 83 (yes, 83!) regular season games. While he's mostly played center in the NHL, Monahan is versatile and can play either wing position. Monahan would likely command a little more than the $1.9 million he made this past season, but nowhere near the $6.3 million he made over a seven-year contract that ended last summer.

Stefan Noesen:

The 31-year-old winger has a strong tie to the new Blue Jackets' boss: Waddell signed Noesen to a one-year deal as a free agent in 2021, then gave him two more years in the summer of 2022. Noesen is inexpensive (likely in the range of $1.0 million) and would primarily be a depth signing for the Blue Jackets, but don't completely sleep on the Texas native: he has back-to-back 35+ point seasons in Carolina and has added eight playoff goals over the last two seasons, as well.

Sam Lafferty:

Another free agent who spent time with Vancouver this past season, Lafferty is a 29-year-old forward who can play center or be slotted in at either spot on the wing. Like the previous two names, Lafferty would be a bottom-six forward who has bonafide NHL experience.  


Sean Walker:

Why limit yourself to one 29-year-old named Sean? Monahan is an option on the offensive side, and Walker could be an option on the defensive side. He was traded at the deadline to the Colorado Avalanche by the Philadelphia Flyers and was primarily a third-pairing defenseman in both spots. Walker was in the final year of a four-year deal with an average annual value of $2.7 million and will likely command a similar figure this time around. 

Justin Schultz:

A 33-year-old with over a decade of experience in the league, Schultz is (yet another) potential depth signing for the Blue Jackets that would allow guys like David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk to ease their way into the rigors of an NHL defense. Schultz has spent the last two seasons with Kraken, mostly on the second and third pair. That would be his role in Columbus, too, with a contract that would likely be similar to his last one of two years at an average of $3.0 million.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson:

The long-time Coyote and a top ten pick all the way back in 2009, Ekman-Larsson just won the Stanley Cup with the Panthers and is just 18 shy of 1,000 games in the NHL. If Waddell's purpose in a veteran defenseman is leadership, Ekman-Larsson should be near the top of the list. He's smart, savvy, and has size.

Matt Grzelcyk:

A career Bruin, Grzelyck seems destined to move on from the team that drafted him in 2012. Primarily a third-pairing defender in Boston, Grzelcyk would have a chance to be elevated to the second pairing in Columbus. He made $3.7 million last season and would be the most expensive of these four defensive options, but the 30-year-old could give the biggest boost of any of the four, as well.


View 8 Comments