The nightmare 2022-23 season for the Blue Jackets continues as the team announced on Wednesday that veteran winger Gustav Nyquist would miss the remainder of the regular season with a shoulder injury. This is devastating news for the Jackets, who were almost certainly going to get a nice return for his services at next month’s trade deadline.
It’s another piece of unfortunate information for a team that has been decimated by injuries this season – but this one stings for a variety of reasons. Nyquist is an important part of the team both on and off the ice, and while his offensive numbers have dropped off, his leadership and experience have been invaluable this season.
All that said, it was likely that his time in Columbus was coming to an end within the next month. As a pending UFA, we talked just two weeks ago about the kind of return the team might get for Gus at the deadline – a return that has probably diminished with one collision in a meaningless game. Just our luck.
His injury does not require surgery, which is the only bit of positive news to come out of this situation. So, what are the options here? First, without the requirement for surgery – is it possible that he could make a later in the season return? If the Jackets and a pending trade partner feel that way, he could still be dealt, though notably it would be for a lesser return.
For example: if you’re a team pressed right against the cap, do you try to acquire Nyquist now, put him on LTIR and then activate him for the playoffs? Ah yes, the old Tampa Bay special. If a team thinks he can return and make a difference, it’s a possiblility. Conditional draft picks seem to be the obvious course here – if he doesn’t play a certain number of games, you give up less.
The second option: what about signing Nyquist to a one-year contract extension, much like they did with Joonas Korpisalo? The plan all along with Joonas has been: give him another chance to earn playing time and re-establish himself as an NHL goaltender, then move him for assets. He’s done that, and now that team-friendly contract is likely to fetch a decent deadline haul.
Signing Nyquist to a one-year deal could be a win for both sides. I don’t even think the cap hit is too much to bicker over – the team has roughly $11m in space for next season. Then, you’re basically punting this trade for one season, and hoping he can have a healthy, productive season to get a greater return.
The last outcome here, would be simply washing our hands and letting Nyquist walk away in free agency. Which certainly is a possibility, but it would be a sad and disappointing outcome for a guy who has given quite a bit to the organization and the city of Columbus. Most importantly, we wish him a speedy recovery and hope that he can get back on the ice soon, rather than later.