Going into the 2014-15 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets have the fourth-lowest payroll at $54,375,476 and the fourth-most cap space available with $14,624,524. On the surface, that seems like a good thing, right? From a business perspective, the team has money to spend leading up to the season, and is not in danger of having to pay a tax if they exceed their cap space. A pretty good place to be if you’re the owner.
But, sometimes being frugal doesn’t always work to your advantage. Two of the better teams in the league, Boston and Chicago, both have negative cap space. Those are two very successful teams. Chicago also has the second-highest payroll in the league, with Boston in fourth. Of course, Boston and Chicago both have multiple All-Star level players on their roster, which inevitably leads to a higher payroll and less cap space available.
That, then, would seem to suggest that teams with small payrolls and large amounts of cap space aren’t paying any big-name, high-quality players. The Jackets would fit in there. The highest-paid player on the Jackets roster is Sergei Bobrovsky, with a cap hit of $5,625,000. The Blackhawks have a tie between Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, each with a hit of $6,300,000. Basically, the Jackets don’t have any top-notch players that get paid a ton, so they have a ton of cap space.
So, why didn’t they spend it? Per capgeek.com, the Jackets have an average of $14,625,524 to spend on each roster opening they have. The highest paid NHL player right now is Shay Weber, making $14,000,000 a year. The Jackets have the ability to pay even the highest-paid player in the league if they wanted to. So why not?
It’s long been known that the Jackets’ weakness as a team is scoring. It goes back to the days of trying to find a high-scoring center to play with Rick Nash. Now that Nash is gone, the Jackets don’t have All-Star scorers. Ryan Johansen seems like he might be able to get there, but even his future with Columbus is uncertain. So why not spend some of that available cap space and sign a big scorer?
There was a lot of talent traded around during free agency, yet the Jackets were noticeably quiet. GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he didn’t want to change the team that much in free agency, but why not pick up someone who will make your team better? After all, they can afford to do it. The Blackhawks landed Brad Richards for just $2 milli0n a year. The Penguins got Christian Erhoff for $4 million. There was bound to be some players the Jackets could have signed that would have added some considerable talent to the team, but they didn’t.The Jackets’ cap space problem is that they have too much of it. Could the reluctance to sign an All-Star go back to the measly and downright embarrassing performances of Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter? Definitely. Maybe an All-Star won’t fit in with the Jackets. Maybe that’s not their identity. But not every good NHL player will crap out like those two. Surely the Jackets management could have used some of their considerable cap space to bring a top scorer to Columbus. It just seems hard to become a major contender in the NHL when your top scorer is a 21-year-old who scored a career-high 30 goals this season.