Lilja agreed to terms on a one-year deal with KHL club Barys Nur-Sultan on Wednesday, KHL Insider Aivis Kalnins reports. According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the Blue Jackets granted Lilja permission to find another team and he won't be part of the club's postseason plans. While the winger could still be handed a qualifying offer this offseason in order to retain his RFA rights, it seems unlikely given the organization's willingness to let him depart. The 26-year-old Swede failed to impress in 37 games for Columbus this season, in which he registered just two goals and three assists while averaging 9:54 of ice time.
Lilja was promoted from AHL Cleveland on Friday. After making the Opening Night roster back in October, this will be the second stint in the minors for Lilja this year. The 26-year-old has appeared in 27 games for Columbus this season, in which he's recorded two goals, two helpers and 20 shots while averaging just 9:43 of ice time. Given the bevy of injuries among the Jackets' forward group, Lilja could slot into the top-six spot being vacated by Liam Foudy, who was returned to OHL London in a corresponding roster move.
Lilja was reassigned to AHL Cleveland on Wednesday. Lilja served as a healthy scratch in each of the Blue Jackets' previous two outings, so the move to get him some ice time with the Monsters shouldn't come as a surprise. After playing in Wednesday's clash with AHL Rochester, Lilja figures to be back with Columbus in order to provide added forward depth versus Detroit on Friday.
Lilja has played in 14 straight games since being promoted from AHL Cleveland after Christmas, scoring two goals on seven shots with three hits, 12 blocked shots and a plus-5 rating. The 26-year-old NHL rookie has mostly played on the fourth line during that time, giving him little fantasy value, but Lilja has provided the Jackets with some solid shifts and helped keep the team afloat while it has dealt with multiple injuries up front. Whether he's played well enough to keep his spot in Columbus once the likes of Josh Anderson (shoulder) and Alexandre Texier (back) get healthy remains to be seen, however.
Lilja scored his first goal of the season in Friday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals. The 26-year-old rookie opened the scoring midway through the second period, but it was all the offense the Jackets could muster. Lilja only has three points through his first 13 NHL games, but with Columbus missing two entire lines worth of forwards at the moment, there's an opportunity for him -- or any of the team's unproven skaters -- to seize a significant role if he can get hot.
Last 7 Games
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