On the first night of the NHL Draft, Columbus sent Seth Jones, their top defensemen, to Chicago in a blockbuster move. That left Zach Werenski as the top defenseman in Columbus. Last week, Columbus and Werenski agreed on a massive contract extension, keeping Werenski in Columbus through the 2027-2028 season.
In comparison, Seth Jones’ extension with Chicago runs until the end of the 2029-2030 season. Despite having the longer contract, Columbus’ former top defenseman will be making $83,333 less than Werenski starting in 2022-2023.
How Werenski Earned the Contract
Werenski just completed his fifth season in Columbus where he tallied seven goals and 13 assists in 35 games. Werenski missed the last month of the season with a sports hernia. Despite the 2021 campaign that ended with an injury, Werenski was coming off a 20-goal season in 2019-2020.
On top of the 20 goals, Werenski added 21 assists, giving him a total of 41 points in 63 games played. Werenski’s led the NHL in goals by defensemen that season. He also finished with a positive plus/minus rating which is always good to see from a defenseman.
With the exception of his 2021 campaign, Werenski has tallied at least 37 points in each of his four seasons while playing in over 91% of the regular season games. Werenski has also added 13 points in 29 career playoff games for Columbus. Werenski’s offensive efforts alone make him more than deserving of a long-term contract with the Blue Jackets.
Is Werenski Worth the $9.583 Million?
When Werenski begins his new contract in 2022, he will carry a $9.583 million cap hit. As of now, Werenski’s cap hit makes him the third highest paid defenseman in the NHL. Only Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty will carry a larger cap hit than Werenski.
Werenski’s cap hit in 2022 will be larger than several Norris Trophy winners including Duncan Keith, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman and Roman Josi. It might be safe to say that Columbus has high expectations for their young defenseman to earn some hardware of his own in the next six seasons.
In these last two seasons, Werenski has had his own share of injuries he has battled from a shoulder injury to a sports hernia. How much could health play a factor in his performance over the next six seasons? For Columbus and Werenski’s sake, their hope is that the injuries are behind him and that he should be a consistent threat each and every night.
Up until the 2019-2020 season, Werenski only missed nine regular season games. During the 2019-2020 and 2021 seasons, Werenski missed a total of 40 regular season games due to injuries. Now that Werenski is the top defenseman in Columbus, they can’t afford to lose him too much.
How Werenski’s Contract Affects the Columbus Blue Jackets
After losing Seth Jones in a trade with Chicago, Werenski was now the top defenseman for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rumors and speculation thought he would be the next player Columbus would try and move before the season started. With this new contract, Columbus pretty much put those rumors to bed.
Werenski could very easily be donning the captain’s “C” for Columbus by the time his contract is up. The value he carries for the team is huge and almost irreplaceable at that. For Columbus fans, it has to be very reassuring to see their top defenseman signed long-term.
The only concerning thing surrounding Werenski’s new contract is his cap hit of $9.583 million. Werenski deserved a large pay day after his 2019-2020 campaign, but a few injuries put his health in question a little bit. That would be a steep pay rate for a player who misses 20 games per season.