Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Wednesday that restricted free agent defenceman Zach Werenski wants to sign a contract, though it remains unclear whether the two sides will reach a deal by mid-September.
“We’ve been pretty firm with the way we’ve handled things in these situations,” Kekalainen told The Athletic. “And we’re going to be the same way – consistent – with Werenski, as well.
“We really appreciate him as a player. We want him to be a big part of our team and become a leader. He’s a great teammate and a good person. I’m confident that everything will get done and that he wants to be part of the team right from the start [of training camp].”
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports the two sides have discussed a three-year bridge contract, as well as longer-term deals. Kekalainen said Wednesday that he believes progress is being made towards a deal and talks remain amicable.
Werenski, who posted 11 goals and 44 points in 82 games last season while averaging 22:53 of ice time per game, is one of several high-profile restricted free agents who have yet to sign a contract for this upcoming season.
"It's a bit of a waiting game by the agents' side," Kekalainen said. "They're waiting for somebody else to go first [and set the market]. That's the way it goes, I guess."
Werenski, 21, led all restricted free agent defencemen in points last season and trailed only Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Ivan Provorov in ice time.