The Blue Jackets face more question marks than they would like entering this off-season, but can at least check one box on their to-do list today. Columbus has announced a one-year, one-way contract extension with forward Markus Hannikainen, who is coming off his first full season spent in the NHL. The 26-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger adds that the deal carries a $750K value, which is just $15K more than his $735K qualifying offer. As such, Hannikainen made things easy on the Blue Jackets by simply accepting close to the minimum deal that they could offer him. Hannikainen could have filed for arbitration this off-season, but the Finnish forward is still looking to truly make his mark in the NHL and was likely willing to accept a low salary in exchange for more responsibility on a Columbus team that will be looking to fill out their forward corps following several expected key departures.
Hannikainen originally signed with the Blue Jackets as an undrafted free agent in 2015, continuing a Scandinavian pipeline to Columbus under GM Jarmo Kekalainen. Hannikainen has played in at least four NHL games in each of his four season in North America, setting a new career high this past year with 44 games played. It was also the first season that he did not suit up for the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, as he proved early on in his Blue Jackets tenure that he had outgrown the minor league level. Hannikainen will look to take another step forward next season, hopefully improving his production from just seven points this year. An increase in points will mean an increase in appearances and ice time and an increase in bargaining power when his contract ends next summer.