The Columbus Blue Jackets will re-sign star restricted free agent (RFA) defenseman Zach Werenski to a three-year deal worth $15 million, as per a report from NHL.com’s Kevin Weekes.
This is great timing for the 22-year-old defender and the team to come to an agreement, with training camp set to start later this week. With a number of RFA’s still waiting for contracts, Blue Jackets fans can breathe with their young star under contract.
Werenski is coming off of an 11-goal, 44-point season, playing all 82 games. He was stellar in the Blue Jackets playoff run, collecting another goal and adding six points in 10 playoff games.
The top-two defender has played 237 games in Columbus, racking up 38 goals and 90 assists for 128 points. The duo of him and Seth Jones will look to be a formidable force for the next three years before both players become free agents. Werenski will still be an RFA at the time.
With the Blue Jackets going through some major changes this summer, losing star forwards Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, and all-star netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, the team is going to need all hands on deck in 2019-20 if they want to be competitive. Locking up Werenski for another three years helps them do that.
Blue Jackets Young Core Coming Together… Maybe
Despite the recent departures, the Blue Jackets currently have a solid group of young players on their roster that should be core pieces moving forward. Of course, this is highlighted by Werenski and Jones, but a few others should be noted.
Other defenders include 25-year-olds Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara, and forwards Alexander Wennberg, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Pierre-Luc Dubois. There’s even some talent in the system in Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, and Daniil Tarasov.
Despite solemn impressions around the team heading into 2019-20, there is some young talent in the organization. The 2020 NHL Draft might not help out too much in this, but it might not take too long for this team to rebound.
The First RFA of Many?
Werenski was one of numerous key players across the NHL to be without a contract as training camp nears. With one domino falling, perhaps other players, agents, and organizations will follow suit.
The summer has been headlined by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner. After having William Nylander sit out last season until the last minute, the last thing that the Maple Leafs want is another holdout. However, that seems to be where the situation is heading.
Other notable RFA’s include Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine, Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boese, Charlie McAvoy and Kyle Connor, among numerous others.
Werenski’s deal isn’t too steep, at $5 million per season, and the term is right for the player as he can spend the next three seasons earning another big raise. We are seeing an increasing number of young players in the league sign shorter deals with slightly higher cap hits. With Werenski signing this type of deal, perhaps the others are about to follow.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.