Transactions on UFA Weekend
Columbus was active during the opening weekend of Free Agency and during the draft. But not exactly in the way I would had expected. Below is a list of recent transactions involving the CBJ or CBJ-adjacent players that I found interesting:
Florida gets: Markus Nutivaara
Columbus gets: Cliff Pu
New Jersey gets: Ryan Murray
Columbus gets: 2021 5th-Round Pick
Wennberg signs 1-year $2.25M contract with Florida (after Columbus buys out his contract)
Anderson signs 7-year $38.5M contract with Montreal ($5.5M per year)
Domi signs 2-year $10.6M contract with Columbus ($5.3M per year)
Mikko Koivu signs 1-year $1.5M contract with Columbus
Jakob Lilja became UFA, no offer tendered by Columbus
We will start with the easy and move to the head-scratchers.
I previously posted about the Domi-Anderson swap. Each of the players was signed, Anderson for long term (7 years) and Domi shorter (2 years) but both for about the same price, just north of $5M per year. MON made out on its contract with Anderson if he ends up scoring 30+ goals in multiple years. Columbus played it safe inking Domi for 2 years and allowing that to play out for his first UFA contract following 2022.
Wennberg signs with FLA for 1 year at $2.25M. This is his 'show me' contract. After being bought out of Columbus he received this more-than-reasonable offer from the Panthers. Prediction: Change of scenery does him good, he out-plays the 1-year deal and gets re-signed by the Panthers.
Murray and Nutivaara moved to clear cap space
Columbus has a glut of talent on the blue line and everyone in the NHL knows it. The value of these two pieces might have been higher. That could have been a classic over-valuing of your own players. The fact is that they were a road block to bringing up younger talent. Either way, Murray and Nuti left town for a box of popcorn and bag of peanuts. Sad to see talent leave the team for so little. Murray is in a contract year and cleared almost $5M while Nuti has 2 years and then was an RFA. Murray I get, he is oft injured, paid too much for the time he spends on ice and there are other options on this team for the second pair that can be more consistent. Nuti was moved to 3rd pair duty, but could have (and likely will) play on the 2nd. His contract was less than $3M and becomes an RFA after 2022. I scratch my head a little at this one.
Jacob Lilja doesn't get a qualifying offer
Lilja is allowed to move on as a UFA. I'm not sure if this was done so that he could be signed cheaper by AHL Cleveland or if something else happened. He didn't perform as well as most had hoped, but it was his first NHL season. I only question this because he could have been signed for less than $1M.
Big head scratcher: Mikko Koivu signing
The 15-season NHL vet and long time captain of MIN signed for 1-year at $1.5M. His career high in points was 71 (22g, 49a) a decade ago. In 1028 NHL games he has 709 points. Over the last 5 seasons he has skated 347 games scoring 61 goals as assisting on 148 others. Not bad, considering his age (now 37). Playing his entire career in MIN means that the Stanley Cup has eluded him.
Where is he going to fit in?
1C - Pierre-Luc Dubois
2C - Max Domi
3C - Boone Jenner
4C - Riley Nash / Kevin Stenlund
Depth is a good thing in the NHL, but he is the 6th center given the 5 above. In addition there was talk that Texier would be moving to center. This move means that Tex can stay on a wing. Domi has also played wing in the past (ARI) but center is his natural position.
Mikko serves as a veteran presence, but doesn't have that championship experience. I struggle to understand this move. When Bobby Ryan, Tyler Ennis or Kyle Turris could have been had for a similar price/term, this may not have been best choice at that level. JK may not have had the choice given the others may not have been interested in coming to the CBJ.
Columbus still has RFAs to sign: Stenlund, PLD, Gavrikov and Carlsson most notably. But that will still leave significant cap space. Is Jarmo targeting one of the Florida forwards Dadonov or Hoffman? Or is there a trade in the works?
Good Luck and Go Jackets!