The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed restricted free agent defenseman Zach Werenski to a three-year, $15 million contract through the 2021-22 season, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today.
Werenski, 22, is a former Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, NHL All-Rookie Team selection and 2018 NHL All-Star who has registered 38 goals and 90 assists for 128 points with 48 penalty minutes and a +13 plus/minus rating in 237 career games over the course of his first three NHL seasons. His 38 goals rank ninth and his 128 points are tied for 21st among all NHL defensemen since 2016. He also has added 3-7-10, 11 penalty minutes and is +1 in 19 career games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Zach Werenski is one of the best young defensemen in the National Hockey League and we couldn't be happier that he will continue to be a foundational player for the Columbus Blue Jackets," said Kekalainen. "He is a gifted offensive player that has continued to improve in all facets of the game and will be an elite player for many years."
Columbus' first pick, eighth overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft, Werenski made his NHL debut in 2016-17 and tallied 11-36-47, 14 penalty minutes and a +17 plus/minus rating in 78 games. He broke Rick Nash's franchise record for points by a rookie (39, 2002-03), recorded the second-most points by a defenseman up to that time in franchise history (51 - James Wisniewski, 2013-14) and the sixth-most points by a teenage defenseman in NHL history. He earned NHL All-Rookie honors and finished third in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie.
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In 2017-18, Werenski notched 16-21-37 in 77 games as he and teammate Seth Jones set the club single season record for goals by a defenseman and tied for fourth in the NHL in that category. He also made his All-Star Game debut on Jan. 28, 2018 and picked up an assist at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Last season, he led club blueliners in goals and ranked second in assists, points and Time on Ice/Game with 11-33-44 and a career-high 22:54 TOI in 82 outings.
A native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Werenski registered 20-41-61, 28 penalty minutes and was +14 in 71 games at the University of Michigan from 2014-16. He tallied 11-25-36 in 36 games as a sophomore in 2015-16, earning AHCA First Team All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten honors. He made his professional debut with the American Hockey League's Lake Erie Monsters that spring and had 5-9-14 in 17 playoff games to help the club capture the Calder Cup championship.
Prior to his two seasons at Michigan, Werenski spent two years with the United States National Team Development Program. He represented Team USA at the 2015 and 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships, serving as team captain, leading the team to a bronze medal and earning Best Defenseman and All-Star Team honors in 2016. He also played for Team USA at the 2019 IIHF World Championships.