Zach Werenski and the Columbus Blue Jackets agreed to what may seem to be team-friendly deal with three years at $5M AAV, but Werenski could have the last laugh.
The new deal makes him the sixth-highest paid player on the roster and the second-highest paid defenseman behind Seth Jones, which is a good spot for him. Additionally, both players will now be up for new contracts at the same time (following 2021-22).
The most important part and the reason Werenski wins this deal is that, in the third year of the contract, the Blue Jackets will pay him $7M. While this may not seem important, after his third season when the Blue Jackets tender him a qualifying offer to keep his RFA rights, they must offer him $7M. This sets a bench mark for his next contract – whether it is a long-term extension or they head to salary arbitration.
While this is a three-year deal on paper, it is basically a four-year deal in the mind of the player because after playing out the deal and accepting the qualifying offer or agreeing to arbitration, he would be a UFA. So as it stands, the Blue Jackets are only guaranteed to have Werenski for the next four seasons.
The Blue Jackets will do what they can to hold on to Werenski long-term, and as it gets closer to the end of his new deal they will look to extend him, but Werenski will be able to leave the club in four years if he chooses.