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Blue Jackets center Wennberg not worried about contract situation

Restricted free agent believes 'eventually it's going to work out'

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM -- If Alexander Wennberg had his choice, he would have agreed to a new contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets already. But the restricted free agent center said he's not worried about whether that will happen in time for the start of training camp in September.

"Eventually it's going to work out," Wennberg said during the European Player Media Tour on Thursday. "Even though I have to wait a little longer than expected, that's a part of it. But you can't really let that get to your head. Right now, I'm focusing on training and focusing on [this] season and it's going to work out. Time will tell. I'm not too stressed out about it either."

Wennberg, who turns 23 on Sept. 22, is coming off a breakout season when he set NHL career-highs with 13 goals, 46 assists and 59 points in 80 games and helped the Blue Jackets set team records with 50 wins and 108 points, and finish fourth in the League standings. Heading into his fourth NHL season, Wennberg is a key piece for the Blue Jackets and likely will center their first line again.

He said he wouldn't be opposed to signing a long-term contract, but the sides still are in the process of exploring what parameters work best.

 

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"There's always different ways to discuss," he said. "Long-term, short-term. But right now, we're just trying to feel each other out a little bit and see what the other [side] wants. Obviously long-term is a good option, but we'll have to wait and see."

Wennberg (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) has focused his offseason training on trying to get bigger and stronger without sacrificing quickness. He believes that will help him win more puck battles.

"I think it's always good to get some extra weight," he said. "I'm still growing a little bit and that's going to help me in the corners. But looking at the big picture, I think my speed and power movement on the ice is probably one of the important things, so I want to see if I can put on some more weight but still be the quick player that I am."

Although happy with how he played last season, Wennberg knows there's plenty of room for improvement. One of his objectives is being more consistent.

"I want to be a really good player in the League, and if you want to be that you've got to be consistent and you've got to show up to work every night," he said. "I feel like last year some games I didn't show up the way I wanted and that's something I want to improve. I want to be there every night and do my job, and if I can make that happen I think that's going to help me and the team as well."

Video: CBJ@NYR: Wennberg tips home the opening goal

Wennberg also is aware he needs to shoot the puck more often. His 109 shots on goal last season were the most he's had in an NHL season but ranked eighth among Blue Jackets forwards.

"I want to improve my scoring," he said. "That's always been a little bit of an issue that I don't shoot the puck [enough]. But if I just stick to my game and play my game every night I feel like it's going to work out."

Wennberg is looking forward to potentially getting to play with left wing Artemi Panarin, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on June 23. Panarin, 25, is tied for seventh in the NHL with 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) in 162 games the past two seasons.

"That would be incredible to play with him," Wennberg said. "He's a [heck] of a player. To see the plays he made with [Blackhawks forward Patrick] Kane, he's one of the best players in the League. So if I get a chance to play with him, that would be incredible."

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