The Columbus Blue Jackets have long been known for being an organization unable to keep big names and star players. From most recently losing Seth Jones and before him Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets have found themselves on the butt end of many jokes from the franchise to the city itself. With players opting to bolt from the city rather than stay, the Blue Jackets have had a significant problem in retaining star talent that goes back further than the most recent group.
There have been the well documented rumblings of why players leave. Most notably in Aaron Portzline’s article back in May to others that painted a target squarely on GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s negotiation tactics and more.
With so many players before that have left before signing or refusing to sign extensions, the Blue Jackets appear to have possibly started to turn the corner. With the team rebuilding their identity, the club has re-signed top defenseman Zach Werenski to six-year deal. His deal nets him $57.5 million with an AAV of $9.58 million. The signing while in itself is a big one that has been handed out in a bevy of big defenseman contracts this season, this contract in particular has even bigger meaning.
Werenski who recently turned 24 is still a young elite offensive threat from the backend. The narrative of a young star signing a long term extension in Columbus has never presented itself outside of Rick Nash. Jones had signed a six-year deal with the Blue Jackets albeit the deal came after the Ryan Johansen trade and he chose to move on rather than go with an extension.
The change here is significant because it opens the door for a new vision with the Blue Jackets. Werenski noted his love for the city and the organization on BlueJackets.com
“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,” Werenski said in a statement. “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.”https://www.nhl.com/bluejackets/news/columbus-blue-jackets-sign-zach-werenski-to-six-year-extension/c-325874700
This paints a new light and tells a love for the city by a player that hasn’t been preached much by others outside of former head coach John Tortorella and departed players like Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson.
The extension and commitment by Werenski adds a layer of stability to what the Blue Jackets are trying to accomplish. In order to become a perennial playoff threat and eventual Stanley Cup contender, the organization has to find a way to get, develop and retain their top tier talents. While the first two areas have not necessarily been the problem, the third has been plagued with disappointment. With a large amount of draft pieces and prospects moving in and up in the organization, moves like this one are now critical to the long term success of the organization.
It is a breath of fresh air and a sigh of relief that the seemingly annual doubts of players wanting to stay may finally be turning the tide in the Blue Jackets favor.Embed from Getty Images