To send a tip to the author, please login.
Zach Werenski signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. It has an average annual value of $5 million.
The 22-year-old restricted free agent defenseman had 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) in 82 regular-season games with the Blue Jackets last season and six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help them sweep the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round to win a playoff series for the first time.
The Blue Jackets will open training camp later this week.
“I was pretty confident it would get done,” Werenski said. “I didn’t want to miss any time, they didn’t want me to miss any time. We both had that same thing in mind. I know we weren’t too far away all summer. Obviously, I’m happy it’s over and I’ve got a few days before we start.
“I wanted to be here at camp, but you have to do what’s best for yourself. The team had to do what’s best for them. If it was worst case scenario and I had to miss camp, we would have had to wait to see what happens. I’m happy it’s done now.”
The Blue Jackets were adamant in the offseason that they did not want Werenski to miss any part of training camp.
“We’ve been very clear on that, that missing camp’s going to take away from the team’s preparation and we don’t look favorably on that. So, we were hoping and, strongly hoping, for this outcome before this training camp got started,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “So, everything’s good. He’ll be in Columbus and ready to go when everybody else is.”
Selected by Columbus with the No. 8 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Werenski has 128 points (38 goals, 90 assists) in 237 regular-season games and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 19 playoff games.
He was a Calder Trophy finalist for rookie of the year in 2015-16, when he had 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) and was plus-17 in 78 games. Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs won the award.
There are still several high-profile restricted free agents that remain unsigned, including defensemen Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins and Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers, and forwards Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, Brayden Point of the Lightning, Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames and Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets.
“Maybe for defensemen a little bit I’ve set the market that some will look at,” Werenski said. “Honestly, someone had to sign first. It happened to be me. I’m happy with this deal.”
“The whole RFA class has been in waiting mode and I’m glad we got this done so we don’t have to wait anymore,” Kekalainen said. “It’s a process and we respect the other side and they have a thought process they go through. We have our thought process and we always want to do a fair deal and I think we got a fair deal done.”