Zach Werenski enjoyed a very good rookie season with Columbus. Then, he had a bit of a dropoff in his sophomore campaign. The third-year featured a bounce back closer to his rookie levels. Considering he turned 22 in July, one figured a new contract was coming for the restricted free agent.
That occurred on Monday as Werenski inked a new, three-year deal with the Blue Jackets at an AAV of $5 million.
What Zach Werenski means to the Columbus Blue Jackets
Werenski’s ice time rose to nearly 23 minutes a night this season as he took on a bit more of a two-way role with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall, his production was good. Werenski tallied 44 points with 15 of his points coming on the man advantage.
The defenseman experienced a dropoff as he averaged a hair more than 2 shots per game – it was only a slight drop though. He and Seth Jones have shared top defensive duties in Columbus.
Now, the contract is signed and sealed. The first question asked has to be, how will Werenski do without Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Matt Duchene? Columbus expects to rely more on the defenseman to generate offense from the blueline.
Werenski upgrades the offense and is mostly responsible in his end. In the playoffs, he scored a goal with five assists in ten games. Also, the blueliner played over 26 1/2 minutes a night with a 50-50 zone deployment.
Here is a PuckPedia snapshot on Zach Werenski.
-11G 44P 82GP
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) September 9, 2019
Next, there is the numerology.
The numerology of Zach Werenski
Fortunately, Werenski anchors the defense along with Seth Jones. They will drive the defense in the transition to offense and be more active in that process. Expect the defenseman to shoot more pucks toward the net (averages 4+ attempts per game).
Possession metrics look slightly positive relative to the team for Werenski. The defenseman maintained a +1% relative last year and that was off from the previous years of 5 and 4% respectively. One of the main reasons was the first half where Werenski was -2% then almost +4% over the second half and playoffs.
Consequently, many point to that his expected goals for that were 3% off from the team average relative. However, his points per 60 are solid right around 1.
Here is a standardized RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey.
Alas, some tougher minutes will likely greet the rearguard in 2019-20 along with a bump up on the power play. Unfortunately, training camp comes quickly and the defenseman will have to improve a little bit defensively. This is because of the void left upfront from the loss of Panarin and Duchene.
This move keeps Werenski in Columbus until his final year of restricted free agency. It represents an expected increased role.
The details of the Zach Werenski deal
The Werenski re-signing features a three-year contract for $5 million AAV which is unexpectedly lower than most speculated he could receive. Salary breakdown is as follows:
- 2019-20 — $4 million
- 2020-21 — $4 million
- 2021-22 — $7 million
That third year features an interesting dynamic. The defenseman remains an RFA at the end of the deal so his qualifying offer would automatically be $7.7 million. This points to a next contract that could be north of $8 million per season.
Some final words on Zach Werenski
Finally, a domino falls on the restricted free agency end as far as a defenseman. What will this mean for say Charlie McAvoy and Ivan Provrov?
Nothing imminent on the Charlie McAvoy (BOS) or Ivan Provorov (PHI) RFA deals but with camp opening this week, and CBJ signing Zach Werenski to a three-year, $15M deal today, expectation is talks on McAvoy and Provorov will heat up considerably in the next day or two.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 9, 2019
The start of training camp exists as a pressure point of sorts. It is now a time where teams will try to negotiate in days what took months. It may be why players get a hair more leverage in the long run while teams do in the short run.