Zach Werenski is expected to sign a contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets before the start of training camp in September, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told The Athletic on Wednesday.
"We really appreciate him as a player," Kekalainen said of the 22-year-old restricted free agent defenseman. "We want him to be a big part of our team and become a leader. He's a great teammate and a good person. I'm confident that everything will get done and that he wants to be part of the team right from the start [of training camp]."
Werenski had 44 points (11 goals, 33 points) in 82 games last season, and six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Selected by the Blue Jackets with the No. 8 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Werenski has 128 points (38 goals, 90 assists) in 237 regular-season games.
Werenski is one of a number of unsigned restricted free agents, with defensemen Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins and Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers, and forwards Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche and Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets.
"It's a bit of a waiting game by the agents' side," Kekalainen said. "They're waiting for somebody else to go first (and set the market). That's the way it goes, I guess.
"We've been pretty firm with the way we've handled things in these situations. And we're going to be the same way -- consistent -- with Werenski as well."