The Columbus Blue Jackets signed left winger Boone Jenner to a two-year extension Monday. Hasn’t he earned a long-term commitment?
What did Boone Jenner have to do to earn a long-term commitment from GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus Blue Jackets?
He’s 22 years old. He scored 16 goals two seasons ago as a rookie. After a broken hand and stress fracture in his back limited him to just 31 games last season, he’s played every game this year, netting 22 goals, second on the team to Brandon Saad’s 24. Jenner ranks 13th among NHL forwards in hits, and Alex Ovechkin is the only man among the 12 players above Jenner with more goals this season. He delivered three goals and five points in six games in his lone tour of playoff duty with Columbus two springs ago. His 82-game averages: 23 goals and 40 points. Did I mention he’s 22?
And yet, the Blue Jackets were only willing to invest a two-year, $5.8-million bridge contract and $2.9-million cap hit for Jenner, a restricted free agent to be. Jenner has demonstrated natural leadership ability, physicality and surprisingly strong goal-scoring ability at the NHL level. Given how young he is, it stands to reason he isn’t finished ascending. Given his ability to play wing and center and his 6-foot-2, 215 frame, it stands to reason he’s growing into a David Backes-like player.
As Kekalainen told Blue Jackets beat writer and THN correspondent Aaron Portzline:
“Boone is the kind of player we want to build the team around. It’s his work ethic. He plays the right way. He scores goals. He competes. He’s going to get better because of his work ethic and his drive. That’s the kind of player we want to build the Blue Jackets around.
“Boone is a great leader, a leader by example. That’s why he’s already wearing an ‘A’.”
So why, then, didn’t the Jackets invest in Jenner long term? Were they scared off by the way Ryan Johansen fell out of favor during his own bridge contract before they traded him to Nashville? It sure seems like Jenner will command a massive raise by the time his two-year pact ends in 2017-18.
Would the Jackets have been smarter to lock Jenner into a long-term contract? Hasn’t Jenner shown a lot more at the NHL level than defenseman Ryan Murray, who signed a similar two-year extension carrying a $2.825-million cap hit? The guess here is the Jackets will regret Jenner’s bridge by next season. A two-year pact means he’ll still be an RFA on the other end of it, but he’ll cost a pretty penny by then.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin