The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Zach Weresnki to a six-year, $57.5-million contract extension that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $9,583,333.
Werenski is coming off a down season after playing through an inguinal/sports hernia, which he has since received surgery for. Limited to 35 games, the offensive defenseman recorded seven goals and 20 points. In 2019-20, Werenski potted 20 goals and 41 points in 63 contests and finished eighth in Norris Trophy voting, the highest he's ever placed for the award.
The extension, which begins during the 2022-23 season, is slated to make him the third-highest paid defenseman in the NHL, according to CapFriendly. The only rearguards scheduled to earn more than Werenski are Drew Doughty ($11,000,000) and Erik Karlsson ($11,500,000).
Werenski's new deal comes just days after Seth Jones, his ex-teammate, officially inked an eight-year, $76-million extension with the Chicago Blackhawks. Jones' agreement holds an AAV of $9,500,000, earning him just $83,333 less than his former Blue Jackets teammate. He, along with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft (Nolan Allan) and a sixth-round selection in 2022, was traded to Chicago for Adam Boqvist, the No. 12 overall selection in 2021 (Cole Sillinger), a second-round selection in 2021 and a first-round pick in 2022.
"Zach Werenski has been one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League over the past five years and we are thrilled that he will continue to be a Blue Jacket and the leader of our blue line for at least the next seven years," Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in the team's official statement. "As talented as Zach is and as much as he has achieved so early in his career, he is an even better person and will be a foundational player for our club as we move forward."
Werenski was the eighth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Since his rookie season in 2016-17, his 65 goals are tied for third-most among all defensemen, while his 189 points rank 19th at the position.
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