The Columbus Blue Jackets are not one of the National Hockey League's big money, or big market teams. Despite that though Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell has shown a willingness to spend money in order to field a competitive product out on the ice, but the squeeze put on teams by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent shutdown of the NHL's regular season, may force the Jackets into some rather difficult decisions.
On a recent podcast, NHL insider Nick Kypreos discussed the rumblings regarding the future of former Blue Jackets 1st round draft selection Alex Wennberg when he hinted at the fact that the Jackets are seriously considering exercising a buyout on the one promising forward.
"Here's a guy who signed a long term deal and I believe he has got 3 more years on his contract," began Kypreos.
Kypreos was immediately interrupted by his co-host on the podcast, former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean, who ripped into Wennberg's current form.
"Awful. [$5 million] for a third line guy that really plays like a fourth line guy on some nights, this has been a disaster." said MacLean.
The crazy thing about this rumor is of course the fact that at 26 years of age Wennberg should be in the prime of his career, and we do not often see players in that situation bought out. However as both men pointed out, the financial strain caused by the pandemic could be playing a big factor here. Due to his young age, and due to the rules of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, the Blue Jackets would not only clear cap space with this move but would save a significant amount in real dollars as well.
"To me the situation is the owner wants to support management, but this is a different situation," said MacLean. "How many teams are saying 'we are in a tough situation now, how much are we gonna spend, can we really go to the cap, or can we save a little bit of money? I think Columbus is one of those."
Interesting enough MacLean, who probably has a better idea of the inner workings of the Blue Jackets than most, believes that this buyout would be more about the actual dollars than the cap space.
"If you can save this kind of money, and this is a bad contract you can get rid off... I don't think this a cap situation, I think it's maybe 'we can save our owner a little money and maybe we don't go to the cap this year."