Sonny Milano has accepted his qualifying offer from the Columbus Blue Jackets, signing a one-year two-way contract worth $874,125 at the NHL level. Milano will still be a restricted free agent next summer, and is no longer waiver-exempt.
The 23-year old Milano was originally selected 16th overall by the Blue Jackets in 2014, but has still not been able to establish himself as a full-time NHL player. In 70 games at that level—55 of which came in 2017-18—he has 15 goals and 24 points, but has spent most of his short professional career at the AHL level. Admittedly an strong offensive player at the minor league level, Milano hasn’t really been able to dominate that level like many expected him to coming out of the USNDTP and OHL.
2019-20 may represent his best opportunity in the NHL though, as the Blue Jackets will be looking for offensive players to replace some outgoing forwards. Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel have all left for greener pastures, opening up room for a player like Milano to see powerplay time and show what he can do. The fact that he would need to clear waivers should all but guarantee him a roster spot, as he would almost certainly be claimed by a team willing to give him a shot.
In order to really establish himself at the NHL level and carve out top-six playing time, Milano will need to focus on more than just his own scoring opportunities. He’s proven in the past that his shot is an asset and he can score from difficult angles and situations, but nine assists in 70 career games for a player expected to drive the offense just hasn’t cut it. He also needs to engage more on the defensive side if he expects to be playing against top competition. In all, this very well could be a make-or-break season for the young forward.