Uncertain of future with Columbus Blue Jackets, Gustav Nyquist continues leadership role

Detroit Free Press

Adam Boqvist was mid-sentence during a recent interview when the door to the players’ lounge swung open inside the Blue Jackets’ locker room.

Gustav Nyquist stood in the doorway. The veteran forward made eye contact with Boqvist, a 22-year old defenseman, and pointed to his wristwatch.

“We’re doing some bench presses, me and Gus,” Boqvist said, smiling. “It’s fun. He just wants me to get stronger. He’s like my big brother.”

Nyquist, 33, isn’t the only member of the Blue Jackets who’d like to see his Swedish countryman get stronger. His willingness to get involved in the process, however, is notable. Nyquist is in the final year of a four-year contract and might not finish the season in Columbus if a contending team takes an interest before the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline.

His future in Columbus is unknown, yet Nyquist continues to provide leadership and consistency for a team struggling with injuries and inexperience. The most recent example were his two shorthanded goals Saturday in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, which helped end a seven-game losing streak and were a franchise record for a player in one game.

“Gus is a pro,” coach Brad Larsen said. “He’s very consistent in what he brings you. I’ve had him all over (the lineup) this year with different guys and he never complains. He’s just goes about his business. He’s a guy that puts the work in.”

Will the Columbus Blue Jackets trade Gustav Nyquist?

Nyquist is also a player who could be moved before the trade deadline.

Given his consistent two-way style and added penalty-killing skill, there’s a possibility he could fetch multiple picks in lower rounds or even a late first-round pick from a contender looking to bolster its depth up front.

It’s something Nyquist hoped he wouldn’t need to think about after the Blue Jackets signed star forward Johnny Gaudreau and re-signed Patrik Laine last summer.

“I’m rattled enough that we have to talk about it at this point,” Nyquist said. “It’s not the way I foresaw this season going, especially with the signings. It’s just the reality of the situation, unfortunately. It’s not me making the decisions, so it’s another trade deadline where your name might be out there and you don’t know what’s true or not.”

It was similar last season.

Nyquist had a year left on his contract at the 2022 deadline, so the Blue Jackets could have moved him to a contender with the assurance he’d be part of that team for one more season. Instead, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen opted against a trade after hearing Nyquist say that he wanted to remain in Columbus.

The decision was rooted in Nyquist’s value as a veteran leader on a young team, and nothing has changed on that front. Despite the Blue Jackets’ 11-22-2 record, Nyquist remains intent on leading as one of the team’s alternate captains.

His feelings about living in Columbus are also the same.

Nyquist and his family love the area, so there’s a desire to stay. The difference is the lack of a new contract plus the possibility that Nyquist could be moved for a valuable trade package and then courted as a free agent in July, something he’d be open to exploring.

“Even with the way this season is going, this is a team that’s going to be a force for a long time, once we find our groove and once the young guys bloom into the players they’re showing potential to be,” Nyquist said. “I’ve loved every minute of being here. I really have. I have nothing but great things to say about this place, but we’ll see what happens in the future.”

bhedger@dispatch.com

@BrianHedger

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