The Columbus Blue Jackets and center Alexander Wennberg have agreed to terms on a six-year contract extension worth $29.4 million that will keep the 22-year-old with the team through the 2022-23 season, the Blue Jackets announced Friday. The deal comes with a cap hit of $4.9 million per season and will eat one year of Wennberg’s unrestricted free agent years. The Stockholm, Sweden-native completed his entry-level contract in 2016-17, posting career-highs in games-played (80), goals (13), assists (46) and points (59).
— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) September 1, 2017
Playing in at least 68 games in each of the last three seasons, the 14th overall selection from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has seen his production increase steadily each year. With the Blue Jackets catapulting to playoff contention last season with a tremendous 108-point season, Wennberg will need to continue developing along the same trajectory as the team aims to take the next step. As far as No. 1 centers go in the NHL, Wennberg has proven that he can hang with the best. With that in mind, his contract being worth only $4.9 million per season is a steal for the Blue Jackets as they look to continue developing as one of the best young teams in the NHL. Playing in a deep Metropolitan Division, it will be important for the team to get players like Wennberg locked up for the long-run as the team looks to win their first playoff series in franchise history.
“We are excited to have signed Alexander to a long-term contract through the 2022-23 season, ” said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. “He has shown steady improvement throughout his young NHL career and is coming off a very good 2016-17 campaign. At just 22-years-old, he has tremendous opportunity to become an integral player for our organization for years to come.”
As Kekalainen mentioned, Wennberg is still only 22 years old (though he’ll be 23 years old when the season starts). Finding such talented young players who can make an impact immediately isn’t easy in the NHL. For the Blue Jackets, drafting a player like Wennberg in the middle of the first round and then locking him up to such a team-friendly deal has to be seen as a win for the front office.
Panarin Acquisition Helps Wennberg
The Blue Jackets made a blockbuster trade earlier in the offseason when acquiring star left winger Artemi Panarin from the Chicago Blackhawks in a deal that saw Brandon Saad going the other way. While Saad is a tremendous two-way talent with a championship pedigree from his first stint with the Blackhawks, there’s no denying Panarin’s addition to the Blue Jackets will help Wennberg as he continues to develop into one of the best young centers in the entire league. Panarin has scored at least 30 goals in each of his first two seasons in the NHL and should benefit nicely from Wennberg’s crisp passing and strong playmaking ability. As such, Wennberg could also see a significant uptick in points in 2017-18 if the two forwards click right out the gate for the Blue Jackets.
While the subtraction of Saad hurts the team’s two-way ability, It’s also important to note that the former Blue Jackets-winger scored 31 goals in his first season in Columbus and 24 goals last season while playing in a prominent role with the club. While his offensive potential won’t be questioned, it’s the fact that Panarin is such a dynamic player that will ultimately help Wennberg in the long-run. Saad is a great player in his own right and should help the Blackhawks as they aim to reclaim their spot atop the NHL’s throne with both teams getting the player they ultimately felt was better for their own personal directions.