A lot has changed in Columbus since Boone Jenner made his NHL debut.
The Blue Jackets have gone from an organization trying to instill a winning culture back in 2013-14, his rookie season, to one that now expects to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs every season.
Jenner has played a key role in that transformation, earning the role of alternate captain, and the 25-year old forward now wants to help the Jackets climb even higher - proving his dedication by signing a four-year contract extension that was officially announced Thursday.
"It's just the organization, first and foremost," said Jenner, who has topped 30 points and 200 hits in each of the past three seasons. "It's a team I've played for, for five years, and I love playing for. I love playing in the city, I love the city … but, really, I think it's the direction that we're going and the things that have changed since my first year, in the culture and different things."
Jenner was one of three restricted-free agents (RFA) the Blue Jackets had this summer. His new contract runs through 2021-22 and is worth a total of $15 million, carrying an annual charge of $3.75 million against the NHL Salary Cap - an increase of $850,000, on average, per season.
"Boone Jenner has been an important player for the Columbus Blue Jackets with his work ethic, character and leadership on and off the ice," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He is still a young player that is improving in all facets of the game and we couldn't be happier that he will continue to be a key contributor to our team in the years to come."
Had Jenner signed for two years or gone year-to-year in his final two RFA seasons, he could've become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after 2019-20 - able to test the open market and see what other teams might be willing to pay.
Instead, he's excited to remain solidly in the Blue Jackets' plans.
"It's a little bit different than the [previous] contract," said Jenner, who's from Dorchester, Ont. "When that little bit of term was going around, it was something I wanted. I wanted to stay and be a part of it. Guys that have been here, and even younger guys who've come in and helped us, we feel like we've really got something here. That's the most exciting part."
Jenner is the fifth player the Blue Jackets have signed since Sunday, when free agency started. Three depth defensemen and center Riley Nash also signed with Columbus as UFAs, with Nash signing a three-year contract worth $8.25 million to leave the Boston Bruins.
Nash's deal works out to an average annual value (AAV) of $2.75 million against the cap, which combined with Jenner's AAV works out to a total cap hit of $6.5 million between the two.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Blue Jackets had 20 players under contract prior to free agency, with a little more than $17 million in cap space under the league's new ceiling of $79.5 million. They now have 22 under contract, including 15 forwards, but rookie forwards Eric Robinson and Alex Broadhurst will be among a group of forwards competing for roster spots in training camp.
Columbus, which now has $10.7 million in cap space left, also has RFA deals to settle with forward Oliver Bjorkstrand and defenseman Ryan Murray.
Jenner, meanwhile, played 75 games last season and all six games in the Jackets' first-round loss to the Washington Capitals, the eventual Stanley Cup champions. He finished with 13 goals, 19 assists and 32 points, which was five goals behind and two points shy of the 18 goals and 34 points he had in 2016-17.
In his first 60 games, Jenner had six goals, 14 assists and 20 points after missing the season's first seven games with an injury that also kept him out of training camp and all preseason games.
"That was definitely different for me," he said. "I'd never done that before, having to miss the last couple weeks of summer training and all of training camp. It was a different situation and I came back as soon as I could. I think it was a little bit of an adjustment, just trying to get your feet back under you and get back to it, but I thought when that happened, it was a lot better for me."
The game-by-game breakdown of his season bears that out.
Jenner rallied over the final six weeks to attain his final numbers, riding a wave of chemistry with linemates Alexander Wennberg and Thomas Vanek - who was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade Feb. 26, shortly before the NHL Trade Deadline.
Jenner's name was mentioned in trade rumors leading up to the deadline, but he remained with Columbus. He also got hot when the Blue Jackets needed it most, down the stretch in March. The new line combination clicked and Jenner began to look like himself again, creating havoc on the forecheck and crashing the net hard.
In the final 15 games, from Mar. 8 to April 7, Jenner had seven goals, five assists, 12 points and a plus/minus rating of plus-12 - bringing him from minus-11 to plus-1 to end the regular season.
He added a goal, two assists and three points during the playoffs.
"At times during the year, it wasn't the way I wanted it to go," Jenner said. "I just tried to stick with it and near the end I thought I was playing my best hockey of the year - and that's what I want to contribute all year."
Jenner's biggest offensive breakthrough was in 2015-16, when he scored a career-high 30 goals, had a career-high 19 assists and finished with 49 points in 82 games. That goal total might be tough to attain again, but Jenner's career numbers suggest he's got more goal-scoring ability in the years to come.
He has 86 goals, 75 assists and 161 points in 342 career NHL games, all with the Blue Jackets - who drafted him in the second round (No. 37) of the 2011 NHL Draft. He also has a new contract, along with a new sense of security and motivation.
"I definitely want to contribute more," Jenner said. "It's something I've always wanted to do, and I don't think anyone really gets satisfied in this league. That's why you work so hard in the summer, to improve your game and be a better player. I don't think you ever stop that. I just want to contribute more and be more of a leader in that aspect."
He'd also like to help the Blue Jackets get to the NHL's peak and bring the Cup to Columbus.
"It's exciting for us," Jenner said. "We feel like we're a hell of a team, and that's what's so exciting about coming back. I think guys are even hungrier and that's fun to be a part of. This league's a tough league. Even some of the best teams, they learn by losing before they win, and that's something we've got to take pride in, and try to get over, and strive for more each year."