Ryan Johansen, Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones. Those are some of the names of stars that the Columbus Blue Jackets have been unable to convince to stay in the city. The organization’s inability to keep big names in Columbus has long been an issue, with some players even taking pay cuts to leave.
However, the Blue Jackets made a step in the right direction last week when they were able to sign star defenseman Zach Werenski to a contract extension. The six-year deal is worth $57.5 million with an average annual value of $9.58 million. This piece will explore why this extension is a big step for the organization.
Zach Werenski’s Career With the Blue Jackets
In his five seasons in the NHL, all with Columbus, Werenski has recorded 65 goals and 124 assists in 335 games played. His 65 goals are good for the most goals by a defenseman in franchise history, and his 189 total points are second behind Jones.
In his career in Columbus, Werenski has cemented himself as one of the elite offensive threats off the blue line, showing that he was worthy of a long-term contract extension with the Blue Jackets organization.
Werenski’s Love of Columbus Made Him Want to Stay
One thing made clear after the Werenski extension was announced: his love for Columbus was a major factor in his signing. There was a quote from him included in the Blue Jackets’ announcement of the contract.
“I’m really excited and grateful to Mr. McConnell, J.D., Jarmo, and everyone there for the opportunity to continue to be a Blue Jacket,” Werenski said. “The city of Columbus has been so good to me, it’s close to home and my family, and as I thought about it, it was really a no-brainer. I’m a Blue Jacket. I want to continue to be a Blue Jacket and do everything I can to bring a Stanley Cup here.”
This statement from Werenski may be a turning point for the organization’s ability to keep star players in Columbus. He said he loves being a part of the Blue Jackets organization, and he enjoys the city. There is no doubt that stating his love for Columbus, how good the community has been to him, and the decision being a no-brainer will go a long way for the organization’s ability to keep big-name players.
Werenski’s Extenstion Is a Step in the Right Direction
With many names like Seth Jones, Artemi Panarin, and Pierre-Luc Dubois leaving before long-term extensions, the narrative that Columbus can’t keep stars has become a widespread belief amongst the media and fans in the NHL. The Werenski extension is a big step for the organization to get away from that narrative.
Many view the extension as an overpay, but it was one the organization needed to make, even if that is the case. Not only was it just to extend a skilled defenseman that has left it all on the ice for Columbus in the past (including playing with a broken orbital bone in his face in the 2016-17 postseason), it was for the future of the organization as a whole.
This is just one extension and one name for the Blue Jackets. They have much more work to do to disprove the narrative of star players wanting out, but it is a good start and a step in the right direction. The organization needed to start somewhere, and Werenski was that start.
His words about Columbus and his belief that the rebuild is heading in the right direction are huge for the organization. There is no doubt that this extension and Werenski’s reaction to it will inspire stars to sign and stay with Columbus in the future and will lead to the narrative’s downfall.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.