aPRIL 29, 2018 | 11:49aM ET



Jarmo Kekalainen, GM


The Columbus Blue Jackets liked their team this season, but after a first-round exit at the hands of the Washington Capitals, the club is looking to further improve itself for the 2018-19 campaign.

“Do we settle with this group? No, we’re always going to try to improve,” Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch. “If there’s a free-agent fit, that’s where management steps in and makes that decision.”

The Blue Jackets have roughly $14 million in available salary cap space heading into next season, and that’s without the cap going up, which it’s expected to – next season’s salary cap is expected to fall between $78 million and $82 million.

Forward Matt Calvert and defenceman Jack Johnson are not expected to be re-signed this off-season, while pending restricted free agents Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray will see their salaries increase on their next contracts.

Columbus is expected to be fairly active this off-season, as GM Jarmo Kekalainen looks to fill some voids and add some extra fire power to the lineup, including secondary scoring.

But another area of concern for the team centers on the futures of forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, both of whom have one-year remaining on their contracts, just like Tortorella.

Neither player can sign extensions with the club until July 1, but they can certainly begin discussing options.

“Hopefully, there’s a will for those guys to stay here,” Kekalainen told the Dispatch. “We either have to agree on a contract, or if they choose they don’t want to play in Columbus, there’s not much you can do. We’re certainly hoping that’s not the case with those two.”

Bobrovsky’s salary cap hit is $7.425 million, though his salary for next season will be $6.2 million. Based on his performance lately, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner should see his salary hover around that same cap hit.

Panarin’s $6 million cap hit will undoubtedly increase on his next deal, but how high it jumps is uncertain.

Brandon Dubinsky’s future with the Blue Jackets is also up in the air following a less than impressive season filled with injuries and some off-ice drama.

Dubinsky, 32, has three-years left on his contract, which comes with a $5.85 million salary cap hit. He also owns a modified no-movement clause.

The Blue Jackets could try to trade him to help free up additional cap space.