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2021 Player Review: Zach Werenski’s season was cut short, but he was by far the Blue Jackets’ best defenseman when he played

Werenski played well for the team even with a hernia for the duration of the season, but how much longer will he be here?

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Werenski’s season was cut short with an abdominal hernia, but prior to his season’s untimely end, Werenski was easily the team’s best defenseman, surpassing the play of his more heralded partner.

Werenski remains an outstanding five on five offensive player, and his five on five defense has finally begun to catch up as he enters the prime of his career. Werenski notched 15 points at even strength this season in just 35 games; his total points at five on five were tied for seventh on the roster in the 15th most games played.

Werenski’s season, as mentioned was cut short by a surgery to repair an abdominal hernia.

Werenski played through the hernia all season and underwent successful surgery on April 18 of this year.

2021 Stats

Games played: 35
Goals: 7
Assists: 13
Points: 20
Plus/minus: -9
PIM: 13
5v5 CF%: 50.2%
5v5 FF%: 50.2%

High Point

Werenski put up two points, tied for his season high, and scored the only game winning goal he had this season in a March 13 home win over the Dallas Stars. It was an overtime winner in the dying seconds, in the gorgeous reverse retros to boot.

Low Point

Besides hernia surgery, which sounds awful?

Werenski’s worst on-ice performance of the season came from a January 16 game at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators. Werenski went a team-worst -3 in 24:37 (the most time on ice by any Blue Jacket) as Nashville scored four third period goals to blast the Jackets 5-2 in the second game of the season. If only we saw the signs then.

Contract Status

Werenski is entering the final year of three year bridge deal that carries a $5 million per year cap hit. At the end of this deal, Werenski is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He will, if he so chooses, have the ability to sign a qualifying offer and walk in two years for nothing. He will be able, just as Seth Jones is now, to tell the team that he is not interested in signing a long term deal and force the team to deal from a position of weakness and continue the tradition of “star player leaves Columbus.”

Werenski holds the future of the club in his hands. A reload could, if executed properly and managed well, be in the cards if management so chooses to go that path. But, if Werenski elects not to sign long term, there is no getting around a rebuild - losing both Werenski and Jones is catastrophic to the immediate future of this team.

The Blue Jackets will either find a way to keep Werenski long term, or blow it up. Clock’s officially ticking.

Report Card


How would you grade Zach Werenski’s 2021 season?

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