It wasn't the one many fans are waiting on, but the Columbus Blue Jackets signed another restricted free agent Friday.
Liam Foudy, the 22-year-old forward who kinda-sorta has scored an NHL goal, signed a two-year extension with the team that will keep him with the organization through the 2023-24 season.
The first year of the extension is a two-way contract, giving the Blue Jackets the option to move him between Columbus and their AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. The second year of the deal, during the 2023-24 season, is a one-way contract. That's not to say that the club is forced to have him solely in Columbus in year two, but it would mean that if they wanted to opt him to Cleveland, he would have to clear waivers and would still be guaranteed his NHL-level salary.
Foudy has appeared in 27 regular season games with the Blue Jackets, picking up five points — all assists — so far in his NHL career. Despite zero career goals in the NHL record book, Foudy scored one of the bigger goals in Columbus' 2019-20 season.
Because the NHL does not count playoff games (or in this case, bubble games) for a players' seasonal statistics total, Foudy technically hasn't scored a goal in the stat book. But the above goal gave the Blue Jackets a cushion in the third period of the deciding game of Columbus' play-in series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and regardless of what the stat book says, Foudy's got a goal at the NHL level.
He's struggled since then, however. In the Covid-shortened 2020-21 season, Foudy appeared in 24 games and contributed just four assists in that time. After failing to showcase his skill set last summer, he started the 2021-22 season in Cleveland (and played just one game with the Blue Jackets). Foudy scored seven goals and added a dozen assists in 29 games with the Monsters but missed a significant portion of the season with an injury.
Still, the 29 games with Cleveland was enough to prove to the organization that he deserved additional time to showcase his skills. He was a first-round pick in 2018 and a part of Team Canada in the 2020 World Junior's, where he scored three goals and added an assist in seven games.
The extension not only gives Foudy time to develop his skills, but he's likely going to get another chance this season to showcase it at the NHL level. While the Blue Jackets exceeded expectations this season, picking up 81 points and besting the over/under by five points, this coming season is still going to be one of development. Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov will enter their second years at the NHL level, Kent Johnson is on pace to be a mainstay in the lineup, and forward Kirill Marchenko comes over from the KHL ready to make an impact.
What seems to be lost in the shuffle, though, is that Foudy is just a year older than both Chinakhov and Marchenko. Maybe that's because he made his debut in the pre-Covid era, but it's important to remember that he's still just 22. He's got phenomenal speed and above-average puck-handling ability, both of which are becoming more and more valuable in today's NHL.
Foudy's extension is an indication that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sees the potential, too. Whether or not he ever does make it at the NHL level is still a wild card, but if he can put his game together, Foudy can be a part of a Blue Jackets team that is soon to be on the rise.
One way or the other, we'll learn the answer — and Foudy's ceiling — over the next two seasons.