As we get closer to the 2022-23 regular season, several teams are over the salary cap and will need to make trades because of it. The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of them after their big summer of spending. So far, they have signed Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson through free agency. Along with that, they also inked Patrik Laine to a four-year, $34.8 million contract extension. It’s been a busy offseason for the Blue Jackets, but they still have more work to do to become cap compliant.
The Chicago Blackhawks would be wise to call the Blue Jackets because of this. Although they are rebuilding, Columbus has some pretty intriguing trade targets worth considering. Let’s now take a look at each player and why this is the case.
Gustav Nyquist’s name has come up in the rumor mill since the Blue Jackets signed Gaudreau. This is because the 32-year-old carries a $5.5 million cap hit until the end of the 2022-23 season. Although they would love to keep the veteran forward around, it’s going to be very challenging because of their current cap space problem. The Blackhawks should consider taking advantage of this.
Although the Blackhawks are rebuilding, Nyquist would be a good short-term addition, as he would provide them with another veteran to help mentor their younger players. Furthermore, even at 32 years old, he has yet to show any real signs of slowing down, as he scored 16 goals and recorded a solid 53 points in 82 games last season. Given the fact that the Blackhawks have lost Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach, and Dylan Strome this offseason, it wouldn’t hurt to add someone new to their top six.
Given the Blue Jackets’ current cap situation, Nyquist’s trade value is very low. He’s another veteran forward with an expensive contract who potentially could be had for only future considerations. Teams needing to move out salary are always at a disadvantage, so the Swedish winger is somebody to take a look at. Furthermore, he also could be used as a rental at the deadline to bring in draft picks. This would certainly help improve the Blackhawks’ rebuild.
The Blue Jackets are pretty loaded on defense heading into the 2022-23 season. As a result of this, they could look to move on from one of their defensemen to become cap compliant. One specific player who could interest the Blackhawks is 2016 first-round pick Jake Bean. The 24-year-old is starting to look like a top-four defenseman and would have the chance for even more minutes in Chicago.
The Blue Jackets already have Zach Werenski and Vladislav Gavrikov on their left side, so they may look to trade Bean and his $2.33 million cap hit. If acquired by the Blackhawks, he would be an immediate fit on their second pair and top power-play unit. In limited minutes this past season with Columbus, he scored seven goals and recorded 25 points. Overall, he had a good season, but he has the potential to produce even more if utilized in a bigger role.
Unlike Nyquist, Bean has multiple years left on his contract and will be a restricted free agent (RFA) once it expires after the 2023-24 season. Thus, this is a situation where the Blackhawks would likely have to send something back to the Blue Jackets. Perhaps the 2023 second-round pick that they landed from the Tampa Bay Lightning could get this trade to go through.
Emil Bemstrom is the Blue Jackets’ last remaining restricted free agent. With the team being over the cap, they could elect to trade the 23-year-old forward instead of signing him to a new contract. If Columbus decides to shop him, the Blackhawks should put him on their radar. Although he isn’t projected to become a star, he has the potential to be a solid addition to their third line.
As I addressed above, the Blackhawks’ forward depth has been decimated this offseason. Thus, it wouldn’t hurt to bring in at least one more forward before the 2022-23 season begins, and Bemstrom is an appealing target. At 23 years old, he is not only still young enough to fit into a rebuild, but he also has the potential to improve. Like Bean, he would likely have the opportunity to have a bigger role in Chicago, too. This, in turn, could be enough for him to take that next step offensively at the NHL level.
Bemstrom’s also an affordable trade target for the Blackhawks, as it seems unlikely that they would need to part ways with anything more than a fourth-round pick to the land Swedish forward. Ultimately, that would be worth it if he’s able to fit into their middle six and make an impact on their special teams.
Nevertheless, it would be pretty nice to see the Blackhawks acquire any of these three players. Nyquist would be a sweet addition to their forward group, while Bean could reach his full potential in Chicago. Bemstrom, on the other hand, is a solid under-the-radar target who could surprise many people. Alas, it will be intriguing to see if any of these three players end up being Blackhawks for the 2022-23 season.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.