The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Zach Werenski to a six-year, $57.5 million contract extension through the 2027-28 National Hockey League season, club General Manager and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen announced tonight.
Werenski, 24, has registered 65 goals and 124 assists for 189 points with 71 penalty minutes and a +13 plus/minus rating, while averaging 22:43 in time on ice in 335 career NHL games. Since making his debut with Columbus in 2016, he ranks tied for third among NHL blueliners in goals and 19th in points. He is the club’s all-time leader in goals by a defenseman, while ranking second in points and fourth in assists.
“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 blueline for at least the next seven years,” said Kekalainen. “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.”
Columbus’ first pick, eighth overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft, Werenski tallied 7-13-20 and 13 penalty minutes in 35 games, while ranking second on the club in time on ice (24:11 avg.) in 2020-21. In 2019-20, he led all NHL defenseman and set a club record for goals by a blueliner with 20-21-41 in 63 games. Discounting the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign, he has scored 11 or more goals four times and notched 40 or more points three times in his four full NHL seasons. He has also added 4-9-13 and 15 penalty minutes in 29 career outings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I’m really excited and grateful to Mr. McConnell, J.D., Jarmo and everyone there for the opportunity to continue to be a Blue Jacket and be part of something that I think is going to be very special,” said Werenski. “The city of Columbus has been so good to me, it’s close to home and my family and as I thought about it, it was really a no-brainer. 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.”
Werenski set career highs in assists and points, as well as the franchise record for points by a rookie, with 11-36-47 in 78 games in 2016-17 to earn NHL All-Rookie honors while being named a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy. The following season, he notched 16-21-37 in 77 outings and made his All-Star Game debut at Amalie Arena in Tampa. He appeared in all 82 games during the 2018-19 season and tallied 11-33-44 to hit the 40-point mark for the second time.
The Grosse Pointe, Michigan native is a product of the United States National Team Development Program and represented his country at the IIHF World Junior Championships in 2015 and 2016, serving as team captain and capturing a bronze medal while being named the tournament’s Best Defenseman in 2016. He also played for Team USA at the 2019 IIHF World Championships.
The 6-2, 218-pound blueliner played two seasons at the University of Michigan, collecting 20-41-61 and 28 penalty minutes in 71 games from 2014-16. He notched 11-24-35 in 36 games as a sophomore in 2015-16 and was named an AHCA First Team All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten selection after finishing second in the nation in scoring by a defenseman. At the end of the season, he made his pro debut with the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters and picked up 5-9-14 in 17 postseason games to help the club capture its first Calder Cup championship.