Zach Werenski signed a six-year, $57.5 million contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday that will begin next season.
It has an average annual value of $9.58 million through the 2027-28 season.
“The city of Columbus has been so good to me, it’s close to home (in Michigan) and my family, and as I thought about it, it was really a no-brainer,” Werenski said. “I’m a Blue Jacket. I want to continue to be a Blue Jacket and do everything I can to bring a Stanley Cup here.”
The defenseman, who turned 24 on July 19, scored 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 35 games this season. He did not play after April 8 because of a sports hernia that required surgery.
“Zach has been playing through the injury for most of the season, and as much as we would like to have him in the lineup, having the surgery now is the right decision and will allow him to be 100 percent before the start of training camp in the fall,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said then.
Columbus tied the Detroit Red Wings for last in the eight-team Discover Central Division and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since Werenski made his NHL debut in 2016-17.
The Blue Jackets traded defenseman Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks on July 23, and he signed an eight-year contract extension with them July 28.
Columbus acquired defenseman Jake Bean in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 23, and he signed a three-year, $7 million contract ($2.33 million average annual value) on Thursday.
Forwards Boone Jenner (four years, $15 million, $3.75 million AAV) and Eric Robinson (two years, $3.2 million, $1.6 million AAV) each signed a contract extension Wednesday.
Columbus also signed free agent forward Sean Kuraly (four years, $10 million, $2.5 million AAV), re-signed forward Alexandre Texier (two years, $3.05 million, $1.525 million AAV), and had forward Patrik Laine accept a one-year, $7.5 million qualifying offer.
Selected by the Blue Jackets with the No. 8 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Werenski has scored 189 points (65 goals, 124 assists) in 335 NHL games. He is tied for third with three others among defensemen in goals since making his NHL debut (Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Alex Pietrangelo), behind Brent Burns (76) and Dougie Hamilton (72).
Werenski has scored 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 29 NHL playoff games.
In addition to trading Jones, Columbus lost free agent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forwards Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene two offseasons ago, and traded forward Pierre-Luc Dubois for Laine last season.
“Zach Werenski has been one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League over the past five years and we are thrilled that he will continue to be a Blue Jacket and the leader of our blue line for at least the next seven years,” Kekalainen said. “As talented as Zach is and as much as he has achieved so early in his career, he is an even better person and will be a foundational player for our club as we move forward.”