The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed Markus Nutivaara to a four-year extension, worth an average annual value of $2.7MM. Nutivaara was scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The salary breakdown is as follows:
- 2018-19: $2.5MM
- 2019-20: $2.5MM
- 2020-21: $2.5MM
- 2021-22: $3.3MM
Nutivaara, 23, was selected in the seventh round three years ago and has burst onto the scene as a full-time player for the Blue Jackets. Through 59 games this season, he’s recorded 22 points and could see even more ice time in the coming years. With Jack Johnson and Ian Cole likely leaving through free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Nutivaara given more responsibility. With Ryan Murray still scheduled to become an RFA and rumored to be included in trade talks in the past, getting Nutivaara under contract was important.
It’s a very nice raise for the left-handed defenseman, but it does buy out one of his unrestricted free agent years. That obviously bumped up the cap hit a bit, but it is still low enough to be an inexpensive deal for the Blue Jackets if Nutivaara continues to develop. He’ll be just 28 when it expires, and could demand another solid contract on the open market.
The Blue Jackets are heading to the playoffs again if they can hold off the last few challengers, and you can bet that Nutivaara will play a larger role this time around. Last season, he played just two games in the postseason and averaged fewer than 12 minutes. Where he’ll slot in this time around isn’t set in stone, but with the way he has been playing lately there’s no way he should see the press box very often.