A Three-Year Bridge Deal for Zach Werenski Puts the Blue Jackets in the Driver's Seat

By Peter Fish on August 25, 2019 at 1:57 pm
Feb 23, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) against the San Jose Sharks at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Werenski is reportedly looking for a three-year bridge deal with the Blue Jackets in the range of $5 to $6 million annually. This is a significant increase to his entry-level deal, as he potentially will make as much or more per season than he did in his first three seasons combined, but it also puts the Blue Jackets in the best possible situation.

When the three-year deal is up, the salary cap will have increased and a new CBA will likely be in place–giving the club security moving forward with a larger deal and Werenski will still be a restricted free agent (albeit with arbitration rights) with Columbus.

A long-term deal takes better advantage of an increasing salary cap because the per-year percentage of the contract falls as the cap goes up, but waiting to sign a long-term deal can serve the team as well. Waiting allows the club to understand the growth of the cap and push of a big contract for a few years, allowing the Blue Jackets to plan for the future better.

The current CBA is coming to an end and waiting to offer Werenski a long-term deal until the new CBA is done keeps a lockout proof–majority of salary from a signing bonus–contract off the books. Additionally, the club will have more knowledge about the future growth of the NHL once his contract is up.

The best part of a potential three-year deal is that the club will still hold his rights at the end of the deal, giving the Blue Jackets leverage to sign him to a longer-term deal after that. Werenski will have some leverage, too, as he'll be arbitration eligible, but the Blue Jackets will not let that it get that far since it would likely mean a short-term deal. Regardless, if an arbitrator did have to rule on a new contract for Werenski, then he would still be in Columbus for at least the duration of that contract.

But the fact that Werenski is reportedly looking for this contract (and not just the Blue Jackets) is a positive, because it could point towards him staying in Columbus for a long time.

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