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Michael Arace: Zach Werenski sticks his foot in Blue Jackets' revolving door

Michael Arace, The Columbus Dispatch on

Published in Hockey

I am among a legion of folks — within and without the media — who thought Werenski was going to use the Jones playbook to plot a path toward unrestricted free agency (as is his right). It was stunning, then, when the announcement came Thursday night that Werenski was now locked up through 2027-28. In Columbus.

With the stroke of a pen — on a six-year extension with an average annual value of $9.583333 million, which is $83,333 more than Jones' AAV — the perception that anyone with any star power didn't want to play in Columbus was vaporized. Crash.

"Me and Seth, ever since I joined the league, played together and he's one of my best friends — and obviously I wish him nothing but the best in Chicago," Werenski said. "But I am ready. I'm ready to be a true No. 1 and show everyone I can do it without him."

The days of a Jones-Werenski pairing were always numbered, if only for reasons of salary-cap management. One $10 million defenseman leaves room to build under the cap, but two of them would be crushingly onerous.

Werenski's signing a significant development

 

Still, even with Jones taking himself out of the picture, the Werenski signing is a significant development. It can be looked at as a validation, given by "name" player whose star continues to rise, of the seriousness of Kekalainen's rebuild.

"I had a good conversation with (coach Brad Larsen) and I started feeling excited again after seeing the plans, seeing what they did at the draft, and really that whole week," Werenski said. "I was fully on board. I love the players they brought in, the moves they made. ...

"I saw the plan moving the right way and I wanted to be a part of it."

Werenski wants to win and he's betting on Columbus. If the plan works, there will be others. That is a sea change, or, at the very least, a wave we have not before seen on the Scioto.

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