Blue Jackets sign Zach Werenski to six-year extension; add Mikko Lehtonen to blue-line

The Columbus Blue Jackets lost a big piece of their defense when Seth Jones was traded to the Blackhawks. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has been addressing that loss and making sure he kept one of his top players in the process.

The Blue Jackets locked up defenseman Zach Werenski with a six-year, $57.5 million contract extension through the 2027-28 season.

Less than 24 hours later they signed defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year deal for $900,000 on Friday.

Blue Jackets lock up Weresnki; add Lehtonen

“I’m really excited and grateful to Mr. McConnell, J.D., Jarmo and everyone there for the opportunity to continue to be a Blue Jacket and be part of something that I think is going to be very special,” said Werenski in a team release. “The city of Columbus has been so good to me, it’s close to home and my family and as I thought about it, it was really a no-brainer. I’m a Blue Jacket. I want to continue to be a Blue Jacket and do everything I can to bring a Stanley Cup here.”

Werenski missed the final 14 games of the 2020-21 season because of a sports hernia, and the team is happy to have him back, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

“Zach Werenski has been one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League over the past five years and we are thrilled that he will continue to be a Blue Jacket and the leader of our blueline for at least the next seven years,” Kekalainen said. “As talented as Zach is and as much as he has achieved so early in his career, he is an even better person and will be a foundational player for our club as we move forward.”

Werenski, 24, has 189 points (65 goals, 124 assists) with 71 penalty minutes in 335 career NHL games. He is the team’s all-time leader in goals by a defenseman.

Lehtonen, a 27-year-old from Finland, made his NHL debut last season and had six assists as he split time between the Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs. Columbus acquired him in a trade on March 12 that sent goaltender Veini Vehvilainen to Toronto.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report