Scott Hartnell. Image by: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
The Blue Jackets need to move some troublesome contracts to free up salary-cap space. Scott Hartnell could be the first to go.
The Columbus Blue Jackets' impressive first-half performance this season overshadows the fact that they could face shedding some salary in the near future.
Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globe observes the Jackets carry some potentially troublesome contracts. He believes GM Jarmo Kekalainen must move one of them to free up some salary-cap space.
Shinzawa singles out the contracts of left winger Scott Hartnell ($4.75 million annual cap hit), center Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million) and right winger David Clarkson ($5.25 million). Hartnell, 34, is skating on the Jackets fourth line and has two seasons remaining on his deal. The 30-year-old Dubinsky is signed through 2020-21, while the oft-injured Clarkson could be almost impossible to move.
The Jackets have over $67 million invested in 16 players for 2017-18. They'll lose a player to the expansion draft in June, possibly a young forward such as William Karlsson ($1 million) or Josh Anderson (a restricted free agent in July) or a defenseman such as Ryan Murray ($2.85 million). Even then, Kekalainen could still be forced to make a salary-dumping deal to re-sign some key players.
Top of the list is rising star Alexander Wennberg. The 22-year-old has 33 points in 35 games and centers the Jackets' top line. He's in the final season of his entry-level contract and due a significant raise.
Right winger Sam Gagner, a bargain this season at $650,000, is among their leading scorers this season. The 27-year-old will be a UFA in July and will prove more costly to retain. Kekalainen must also re-sign or replace free agents such as Anderson and goalie Curtis McElhinney.
Rookie blueliner Zach Werenski is in the first season of his three-year entry-level deal, but he will also need a lucrative new deal down the road. Kekalainen must ensure he has sufficient room to do so.
The length of Dubinsky's contract (which contains a no-movement clause) is a deal killer. Clarkson, sidelined by a back injury, might never play again. Kekalainen tried moving Hartnell last summer but couldn't find any takers.
With the Jackets playing so well right now, Kekalainen won't make a significant salary dump before the March 1 trade deadline. Such a move should take place this summer, but it will prove challenging to find a trade partner.
OILERS SHOULD LOOK FOR BACK-UP GOALIE INSURANCE
The Edmonton Oilers are receiving solid goaltending from Cam Talbot. The 29-year-old has a record of 18-10-6, with a 2.45 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts.
However, the Oilers could be overworking Talbot. Backup Jonas Gustavsson (2.90 GAA, .893 SP) appeared in only six games so far, with his last start being a 6-5 loss on Dec. 8 to the Philadelphia Flyers.
If the Oilers feel they need a better backup option before the March 1 trade deadline, the Edmonton Sun's Jim Matheson recommends looking into the trade status of former Winnipeg Jets star Ondrej Pavelec. The 29-year-old Pavelec is currently playing for the Jets' AHL affiliate and is eligible for UFA status in July.
The Jets, however, could be reluctant to move Pavelec. With their current tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, he could be a worthwhile insurance policy for the remainder of the season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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