"It's really interesting to see what's going to take place, because some teams are already over the cap limit and the summer hasn't even started yet," Kekalainen said. "And other teams are well below the limit, and they're trying to find ways to use that to their benefit, too."
For the Blue Jackets, who finished the lockout-shortened ninth in the Western Conference, this off-season could provide a bounty of opportunity. The team is one of just a few who are well below the cap.
Philadelphia, Montreal, and Vancouver are already above the limit, and 12 other teams are too going to exceed it if they plan to re-sign important players at their current salaries. This is where the Blue Jackets may be able to cash in.
To help teams alleviate their situations, the new CBA provides each team two amnesty buyouts over the next two summers. Teams like the Flyers, Leafs and Canucks are all expected to take advantage of this. However, they also may consider trading prominent players.
Despite still needing to sign several players, including goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and center Artem Anisimov, according to CapGeek, Columbus has over $19 million in space. With that, they are able to look into acquiring more established players from teams who need to get under the cap.
Additionally, the Blue Jackets have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft.
In previous seasons, Columbus has needed to rebuild. This season, however, the team simply needs to add and fill holes, and they have the assets to do so.
"We're in a great spot in that we have draft picks and we have (salary-cap) room," Kekalainen said. "And we have a very keen interest in making our team more competitive."
For many teams, the season came to a disappointing close. Perhaps for Columbus, who just missed the playoffs, it was even heartbreaking. The Blue Jackets, however, are one of a handful that can say that a lower salary cap might mean a more exciting summer.