Much like Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist was going to be a cap casualty in San Jose. It seemed almost certain anyway after they acquired him down the stretch but regardless, Nyquist was going to find a new home this summer.
Nyquist found his new home as the Columbus Blue Jackets signed him to a four-year deal with an average annual value of $5.5M.
What Columbus gets
I will admit that I’m much higher on Nyquist than most people seem to be. It’s likely due to expectations. He exploded on the scene with 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games in his first full-ish season, which helped push the Red Wings to the playoffs down the stretch. He followed that up with 27 goals and 54 points in his first full season and seemed well on his way to being an elite scoring winger. He then posted three consecutive sub-50-point seasons before finally reaching 60 for the first time in 2018-19.
Nyquist is good in transition, being able to both carry the puck and find his line mates when it’s necessary to do either. He has very good hands and vision in the offensive zone, as evidenced by him being tied with Matt Duchene in primary assist rate over the last three years. Keep in mind that Nyquist didn’t often play with Dylan Larkin in Detroit, skating instead with Henrik Zetterberg. While Zetterberg was still solid at the end of his career, he wasn’t a goal scorer and he was battling back problems. Nyquist’s vision and skills, then, would probably work a lot better with someone like Cam Atkinson than someone like Zetterberg.
There is also the defensive side of the puck, where Nyquist lags, relatively speaking. It’s not to say that he’s poor defensively, not in the least. Rather, he’s superior offensively than he is defensively. He can do the necessary work at both ends of the ice, he’s just better at one end than the other.
The newest Blue Jacket can play both wings, but the expectation should be for him to play on the left side. Columbus has Atkinson and Josh Anderson on the right so signing Nyquist only to stuff either he on Anderson on the third line doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Swede should move right to the top line, taking Panarin’s spot both at five-on-five and on the power play.
Assuming the 29-year old is moved right to the top line/top PP unit, a repeat of his 60-point season seems very possible. Columbus might be lacking forward depth right now but forward depth doesn’t really matter when you’re skating on the first line and first power play quintet.
The power play production could be very important here. Not since 2014-15 has Nyquist top 12 PPPs in a single season. If he’s a staple of the top PP unit, he has the ability to get back to 20 PPPs. That could help offset the high secondary assist rate he had in 2018-19, which will drop and negatively impact his point total. He can get back to 60 points, though I would expect in the mid-50 range.
Who this helps
Pierre-Luc Dubois (assuming Panarin wasn't returning anyway)
Who this hurts