Zach Werenski is committed to Columbus.
Last night, the Blue Jackets announced the signing of the star defenseman to a six-year contract extension worth $57.5 million. The contract runs through his first five years of unrestricted free agency, with an AAV of $9.583 million (a club record). In committing to Werenski, the Blue Jackets have shown that they value him as their number one defenseman.
More notable, though, is Zach Werenski committing long-term to the Blue Jackets. The narrative that stars leave the Blue Jackets has only gained steam in recent times. Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Seth Jones have all left the Blue Jackets in recent years. Werenski, who is a bonafide number-one defenseman, will be in Columbus for seven more years. That sends a message to the rest of the league that this narrative should be silenced.
"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," Werenski said.
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."
Signing Werenski is a huge victory for the Blue Jackets. The writing was on the wall for Werenski to head to Detroit when he became an unrestricted free agent. He's good friends with Dylan Larkin, went to Michigan, and grew up a Red Wings fan. In 2017, he penned a letter saying goodbye to Joe Louis Arena, and had this to say about the Red Wings franchise:
"And to think, when I was a kid growing up in Grosse Pointe Woods, all I ever wanted was to play a game at The Joe and to be a Detroit Red Wing. Let's make one thing clear: it's the honor of a lifetime to be a Columbus Blue Jacket and to wear this sweater, but six-year-old Zach saw your sheet of ice as the ultimate goal. It meant everything to lace up my skates and twirl on the same ice as all the greats to wear the winged wheel."
Of course, it's more than a victory regarding the narrative, too. Werenski provides the Blue Jackets with great play on the blue line, and they'll get it for (at least) the next seven years. He's an elite offense defenseman and is a great candidate to be the club's next captain. The only other player who may receive that honor is Boone Jenner. By the time Werenski's contract finishes, he'll likely have cemented himself in the Blue Jackets' record book as one of the best defensemen to ever play for the club (if not the best).
Werenski is committed to Columbus, and the Blue Jackets are committed to him. Now that they have their number-one defenseman locked in, the future is looking bright.