Blue Jackets in no rush to sign Marian Gaborik

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen put his stamp on the roster last season by shocking the hockey world: Trading for New York Rangers star Marian Gaborik, in an aggressive push for a playoff berth.

Said Kekalainen in April:

“We’re looking at this as a long-term solution, not a rental. He’s under contract through next season, and we would like to see the relationship continue beyond that.”

That objective hasn’t changed, necessarily. Gaborik is in the last year of his 5-year contract, carrying a $7.5 million cap hit with it. Columbus would, in theory, like him signed for longer after eight points in 12 games last season.

But Kekalainen is sounding a lot more wait-and-see in discussing Gaborik’s future with the Jackets, opting to negotiate a new deal during the 2013-14 season.

Via Puck Rakers on Thursday:

“We want to get more familiar with him, get to know him better,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said of Gaborik, who was acquired at the NHL trade deadline on April 3. “Sure, we’re thinking about it already, but we’re going to let it go into the season, hope to see him score a lot of goals for us and then talk about getting him extended.”

Of course, there’s been a significant change for the BJs since the trade deadline: The signing of Nathan Horton to a 7-year, $37.1 million contract. That means the two most expensive forwards on the roster, in terms of cap hits, are both on right wing, with Horton and Gaborik combining for $12.8 million against the cap. (Horton and Gaborik, for the record, will not play together on the same line, according to Todd Richards.)

At center, those prices for two players are understandable. On the wing, perhaps less so.

This is a tricky negotiation for Kekalainen. Could Gaborik still get a contract like his current one as a UFA? Potentially. He had 76 points in 82 games for the Rangers in 2011-12, although he wasn’t the same player last season.

Would the Jackets want that kind of hit on their books after this season? Not likely, which is why one assumes the term of any Gaborik extension would be lengthy in order to make the cap hit more manageable.

If he passes the audition this season, that is.

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