The Columbus Blue Jackets spent Thursday shedding contracts to clear a significant amount of salary cap space ahead of the free agent signing period on Friday.
One of the contracts on the move is veteran defenseman Ryan Murray.
The Blue Jackets announced on Thursday night that they have traded the No. 2 overall pick from the 2012 NHL draft to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round draft pick.
He has one year remaining on his current deal that carries a salary cap hit of $4.6 million.
Columbus setting up for a free agent push?
Earlier in the day the Blue Jackets traded defenseman Markus Nutivaara and his $2.7 million contract to Florida for forward Cliiff Pu, while they also bought out the remainder of Alexander Wennberg‘s contract. In total, all three of those moves save the Blue Jackets more than $11 million against the cap for this upcoming season.
Top center Pierre-Luc Dubois is a restricted free agent and in line for a significant raise, but the Blue Jackets currently have more than $14 million in salary cap space going into Friday. That could potentially make them a contender for pretty much any top player on the market if they choose to go that route.
It’s not a huge return for Murray, but the salary cap space is the key and it’s going to be interesting to see what they do with it. The conventional thinking might be that it puts them in a position to go after a forward, but they also just traded two defensemen on Thursday.
What the Devils get
This seems like a pretty safe gamble in the hope that they catch some lightning in a bottle.
Murray will not do much to drive the offense, but he is a very good defensive player when healthy.
Those two words at the end are the key here, because injuries have absolutely decimated his career to this point. He has played more than 60 games just three times in seven years, and only once more than 67 games.
Even if it does not work out there is very little risk here. Murray is only signed for one more year, they have the salary cap space to take on his contract, and the fifth-round pick they sent to Columbus is the one they acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for Wayne Simmonds at the trade deadline. If that is all that is at stake, why not take that chance?
Just another reminder on the 2012 Draft class
With Murray now on the move it is a reminder as to how the top of the 2012 class just did not work out as anyone expected it to.
The top-four of Nail Yakupov, Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, and Griffin Reinhart might be one of the least impact quartets in modern draft history, with all four having been traded from their original teams. Murray has probably the best, most consistent player of the four and his career has been ruined by injury.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.