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Dubinsky signs six-year extension with Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Brandon Dubinsky experienced some short-term success for the Columbus Blue Jackets and likes what he sees in the long run.

That's why the 28-year-old center signed a six-year, $35.1 million contract extension Friday that ties him to the Blue Jackets through the 2020-21 season. The contract begins with the 2015-16 season and carries an average annual value of $5.85 million. It contains a no-movement clause for the first three seasons and a limited no-trade clause for the final three.

By the time his new contract ends, Dubinsky expects to accomplish a goal that was set when he was acquired by Columbus in July 2012 in the mult-player trade that sent Rick Nash to the New York Rangers.

At the time, the Blue Jackets were coming off a season when they had the fewest points in the NHL.

Last season they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in history, won their first two Stanley Cup Playoff games and extended the Pittsburgh Penguins to six games in the Eastern Conference First Round.

"I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good," Dubinsky said. "My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top. Nothing would make me happier in my career than to do that. To go from last place to first place would be amazing, and I think we're quite capable of doing it, and the ownership and the front office is going to find a way to make that happen. That's why I wanted to commit here."

Dubinsky has one year remaining on a four-year contract he signed with the Rangers that pays him $4.65 million this season. He could have become an unrestricted free agent afterward.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen did not want that to happen and in the past week initiated talks for a new deal.

"They extended themselves and made an unbelievable gesture," Dubinsky said. "That solidified it for me that they want me to be a big part of it. It was done really fast and amicably."

Kekalainen praised ownership and president of hockey operations John Davidson for their commitment to winning.

"This is a well-earned contract for a player who's been in this League for many years and played a high level for many of those years," Kekalainen said. "He's a leader on this team and a guy who plays at his best when it counts the most as we all saw in the playoffs."

Dubinsky has become recognized as the heart and soul of the Blue Jackets. He had 16 goals, 34 assists, 98 penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating in 76 regular-season games last season.

But it was his clampdown on Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the League's scoring champion, in the playoffs that created a buzz. Crosby was held without a goal against Columbus; he did have five assists.

Although Kekalainen said management was considering an extension for Dubinsky during the regular season, the way he battled against the Penguins solidified their decision.

"Night after night, he was one of the best players on the ice against an elite team in the League and some of the best players in the world," Kekalainen said. "He was able to eliminate the production of Sidney Crosby and play well on both sides of the puck."

A second-round pick of the Rangers (No. 60) in the 2004 NHL Draft, Dubinsky has 99 goals and 184 assists in 498 games with the Rangers and Blue Jackets. He's played a gritty and grinding game that has made him popular in Columbus and despised in opposing rinks.

"He's a Blue Jacket. He plays like we want every Blue Jacket to play," Kekalainen said.

Dubinsky hopes that's the case for many more years.

"I feel like my body's durable," he said. "I haven't had too many terrible injuries. Obviously as you get older, you have to take care of your body better. … I fully expect to finish this contract and [then] play some more."

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