The Gus Bus, that is. (Benchwarmers, anyone?) The summer of 2019 will forever be remembered as the mass exodus from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gone were stars Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Matt Duchene. Even Ryan Dzingel left town, though not many remember ever seeing him there anyway. But it wasn’t all bad – the Blue Jackets quietly signed a very notable, quality veteran winger: Gustav Nyquist.
After spending most of his 8-year career with the Detroit Red Wings, Nyquist played 19 games with the San Jose Sharks in 2019, before becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time. “Gus” was looking for a fresh start and a long-term deal. Enter the Blue Jackets. Desperate to replace some of the scoring lost in their departing players, they inked Nyquist to a four year, $22m contract.
Believe it or not, this is one of the highest-profile free agent signings the team has ever made. Nyquist quickly became a fan favorite, scoring 15 goals and 42 points through 70 games in his first year in Central Ohio. Though he would miss the entire COVID shortened 2020-21 season, he returned this year and didn’t skip a beat, scoring 18 goals and 53 points while skating in all 82 games.
It would have been easy for any team to fall apart with the amount of talent that left in the summer of 2019. Leadership and a solid core helped the team stem the tide and remain competitive. But, I don’t think Nyquist gets enough credit for what he was able to bring: a calming veteran, with enough skill to take a place in the team’s top-six.
Nyquist enters the last year of his deal this fall, but has expressed his love for Columbus and desire to stay. While the team is getting younger and more skilled, keeping the veteran around for a few more seasons may not hurt. If they decide to move in another direction, this is still a player with gas left in the tank, who could net a nice return via trade. Truly, this free agent signing has paid off already – but could continue to be productive for years to come. Read: CBJ 2016 Draft Review.