NHL free agency opens on July 1, meaning the Columbus Blue Jackets can sign their players who are restricted free agents to new contracts. These players include Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Ryan Murray. Also a restricted free agent is Cleveland Monsters center Ryan Kujawinski.
Barring any unforeseen trades (always a possibility with Jarmo Kekalainen, he very rarely lets any trades leak out ahead of time), the Blue Jackets will look to bring all three restricted free agents back into the fold.
What kind of contracts could each player get? Let’s have a look.
Boone Jenner comes into his contract negotiations on the heels of a disappointing season. He registered just 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points over 75 games played with 39 penalty minutes. Jenner played 16:28 per night for the team last year, posting a 46.5% CF%.
Jenner, a former 30 goal scorer, does not appear to be that player anymore - those 30 goals could be seen as the outlier, not the norm. Jenner’s comparable is more of a player such as Tanner Pearson, left wing for the Los Angeles Kings. Both players have put up similar stats over the course of their careers and we can look to Pearson’s latest contract to perhaps guide negotiations.
Pearson, on the heels of a 15-21-36 season, signed a four year contract worth $15 million. Jenner should be expected to sign a similar contract going forward, keeping the bruising winger in Columbus for the next few seasons.
Prediction: Jenner signs a four year contract extension worth $15 million
Ryan Murray has had a tumultuous career, to say the least. He has been a solid player for the Columbus Blue Jackets when he has been healthy. The problem, however, is that Murray has played in just 57.6% of possible games for the Columbus Blue Jackets since he was drafted #2 overall. Murray has been available for just 264 of 458 possible games in his NHL career.
This past season, Murray was again plagued by injuries. He played just 44 games, registering 1 goal and 11 assists for 12 points. He played 18:26 per night, posting a CF% of 49.8%. Murray’s comparable is most likely a player like Nate Schmidt of the Vegas Golden Knights - their playing statistics are similar, but Schmidt has not suffered nearly the injury history that Murray has.
Schmidt is currently on a 2 year contract worth $4.45 million, and Murray should expect something similar. While he made $3.494 million on his previous contract, the fact remains that Murray has suffered so many injuries in his career and has simply not been a reliable option for the coaching staff on a night to night basis. As a result, expect to see that reflected in contract negotiations this summer.
Prediction: Murray signs a 2 year contract extension worth $6 million
Bjorkstrand became a full time contributor to the Blue Jackets last year, playing all 82 games for the first time in his career. He registered 11 goals, 29 assists, and 40 points in just 14:18 minutes per night. He also posted a CF% of 51.4%. At just 23 years old, Bjorkstrand could continue developing into a secondary playmaking threat for Columbus Blue Jackets.
Bjorkstrand, coming off of his entry level contract, should expect a bridge deal that will keep him under team control at the end of the deal. Similarly to Bjorkstand’s situation, Josh Anderson entered restricted free agency last summer. After some tense negotiations, Anderson signed a three year contract extension worth $5.5 million. Bjorkstrand had a slightly better season entering his RFA negotiations than Anderson did, but Anderson had played two full seasons with the team before his negotiations.
Bjorkstrand should be expected to sign a contract similar to the one Anderson signed last summer. The Danish wing will be a key playmaker for Columbus in the years to come.
Prediction: Bjorkstrand signs a 3 year contract worth $6 million
Kujawinski, a former third round pick of the New Jersey Devils, was traded to Columbus at the deadline from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Jordan Maletta. After being traded to Columbus, Kujawinski registered 4 goals, 1 assist, and 5 points in 17 games played for the Cleveland Monsters. He has 42 career points in 132 career games played in the AHL.
Kujawinski, coming off of his entry level contract, will be looking to sign a two way deal that likely pays approximately $1 million per season. Kujawinski fit in well with the Monsters upon his arrival, showcasing his playmaking skills for the team. Should the organization desire, he could be a valuable piece for a team looking to have a bounce back season.
Prediction: Kujawinski signs a 2 year, two-way contract extension worth $1.8 million
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!