The Columbus Blue Jackets have convinced a top college defenseman to leave school a year early, signing Andrew Peeke to his three-year entry-level contract. Peeke recently finished his junior season with Notre Dame where he served as captain. The deal will kick in this season, meaning the first year will be burned and Peeke will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021. GM Jarmo Kekalainen released a statement on his newest player:
Andrew is a mobile defenseman who has the ability to make plays at both end of the ice. He also possesses great character and leadership qualities and we are excited to see his game continue to grow in the coming years.
Peeke, 21, is one of the Blue Jackets’ top prospects and getting him into the organization will help after the recent loss of several top prospects. The Blue Jackets pushed their chips to the middle by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and others at the deadline, but managed to maintain Peeke’s rights. He’ll try to follow in the footsteps of fellow NCAA defenseman Zach Werenski and make a quick impact on the Blue Jackets in one way or another.
It’s not clear if he’ll get into any action for Columbus this season, but Peeke is certainly ready to compete for a spot in the near future. The 6’2″ defenseman recorded 24 points in 40 games for Notre Dame this season and took home a bronze medal with the American World Junior team last year. Originally selected 34th overall in 2016, he has developed a real physical presence in his own end and can still move the puck quickly and effectively. He has also been praised for his leadership and was handed the captaincy by several alumni earlier this season, an especially big honor for a junior.