Analyzing Justin Danforth's Two-Year Contract Extension

By Dan Dukart on March 10, 2022 at 10:15 am
Justin Danforth celebrates a goal
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Justin Danforth played arguably his best game of the season.

Since then, the news has only gotten better for the 28-year old. On Tuesday, he was rewarded with a two-year, $1.95M contract extension that will keep him in the organization through the 2023-24 season. Danforth is the definition of found money. Never drafted, he was a free agent playing overseas, and GM Jarmo Kekalainen and co. gave him a low (no?) risk offer to play on a one-year contract with the Blue Jackets in 2021-22. Now, Danforth has parlayed that into a future in the NHL. 

"We're very excited to sign Justin to this contract extension as he epitomizes the values we have as a team: hard work, commitment, and determination," said Kekalainen. "He has dedicated himself to becoming an NHL player over the past several years and his game has continued to grow throughout this season. He has become a trusted and valuable contributor on our team."

Danforth is an easy guy to root for, a true underdog story. But is it a good thing that the Blue Jackets have committed a roster spot to a player with essentially zero NHL history for the next two seasons? Here's the pros and cons of this deal:


As Kekalainen said, Danforth epitomizes the cultural fit the Blue Jackets are looking to fill: a hard-working, difficult-to-play-against, low-maintenance player. At a $975k cap hit, it's hard to argue with the cost. Danforth will likely slot in as a 4th line winger, play ~10 minutes per night, and chip in offensively. He's tallied 5-2-7 while averaging just 11:30 through 22 games this season. That's a 26-point pace over 82 games, which is more than reasonable for the limited ice time he's receiving. 

Second, his slot in the lineup should not prevent other (younger) players from seeing ice time. It's true that the Blue Jackets have a lot of up-and-coming players that should be vying for ice time... but probably not in a 4th line role. Realistically, who are we referring to when we're worried about potential ice-time conflicts? Cole Sillinger? Yegor Chinakhov? Kent Johnson? Kirill Marchenko? None of them profile as bottom-six players, much less 4th line players. Next year, an optimal 4th line could be something to the tune of Danforth, Sean Kuraly, and Liam Foudy.  

This season, in a limited role, his 5v5 shot share of 50.44% and goals for % of 50.34% (both stats courtesy of NaturalStatTrick) is respectable. When he's on the ice, he's playing 'even' hockey, and that's a good place to be in for a bottom-six player. Per Evolving-Hockey, he has a 0.6 'WAR', a catch-all stat that "attempts to assign a total value to each player, which represents how much that player contributed to their team". In essence, anything above 0 means that he's contributing positively to his team's success. Again, hard to argue with a positive impact player coming in at a minimal cost.


If there is a downside to this contract, it's fairly muted. One could argue that, through 22 games, he hasn't shown enough to justify a two-year commitment. And, as someone who will turn 29 next week, one could argue that a young team on the rise shouldn't be giving minutes to a non-prospect in the lineup, even (especially?) in a bottom-six role. Both of those arguments are probably being muttered by Foudy's agent, who'd like to see his client get more of a look. 

I hear both of those arguments, and typically, I'd agree. But Foudy, and others, like Emil Bemstrom, have had a chance to make an impression on the organization. Unlike Danforth, they've struggled to show their value, particularly without the puck. 

Props to Danforth for seizing his opportunity. 

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