Columbus Blue Jackets hockey czar John Davidson has a running start on his rebuild, thanks to earlier deals that landed puck-rushing defenseman Jack Johnson and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Both were solid gets, ascending players with unique capabilities.
But Davidson must also deal with some payroll management concerns as he moves forward. The franchise has made heavy investments in some mid-range talents.
Looking some of the contracts clouding the franchise’s long-range picture:
James Wisniewski, D: He did score 51 points two seasons ago, with 29 of those points coming on the power play while toiling for the Canadiens and the Islanders. But he earned a plus-minus rating of minus-32 during the previous three seasons. Last season injuries and a league suspension limited him to 48 games. He is a skilled D-man, but not a franchise cornerstone. Yet he is working under a six-year, $33 million contract that began last season. That deal included a $5 million signing bonus, paid out over two years. He has four years left with an average salary cap hit of $5.5 million. His actual pay decreases from $7 million to $6 million next season, $5 million the following two seasons and $3 million in the last year.
R.J. Umberger, W: He has done solid work on left wing for Columbus, scoring 20 or more goals four seasons in a row. But now that the Blue Jackets lack a high-end scorer, how will he handle the extra defensive focus? He has no goals and one assist in his first seven games this season – as he starts a five-year, $23 million. After this season four years remain with an average salary cap hit of $4.6 million. His actual salary declines from a pro-rated $5 million this year to $4.5 million each of the last four seasons.
Fedor Tyutin, D: He racked up a minus-40 rating during his previous three seasons in Columbus. He is minus-6 in seven games this season. He has never scored more than 34 points in a season. Yet he is starting a six-year, $27 million contract this season. He has five years remaining on his deal with average salary cap hit of $4.5 million.
On the other hand, Davidson will gain wiggle room as contracts for goaltender Steve Mason ($2.9 million), winger Vinny Prospal ($2.5 million) and defenseman Adrian Aucoin ($2.25 million) expire.
For more NHL notes and links, check out my posting on STLToday.com.