With KHL contracts officially expiring at the end of the month, there should be a few players signing NHL deals soon after. One of those could be winger Justin Danforth who Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that the Blue Jackets are believed to be interested in.
The 28-year-old played his NCAA career at Sacred Heart before turning pro in 2017, inking a minor league tryout with the Islanders’ AHL team before catching on with Buffalo’s affiliate soon after. However, after spending the majority of the 2017-18 campaign in the ECHL, Danforth opted to go overseas.
That decision definitely proved to be the right one. He spent two years with Lukko in Finland’s SM-liiga, leading the team in scoring both seasons and the entire league in scoring last season with 27 goals and 33 assists in just 56 games. That helped him land an opportunity in the KHL with Vityaz Podolsk this season where he again made the most of it. His 23 goals and 32 helpers in 58 games led the team in scoring while slotting him sixth overall league-wide. Clearly, he has done enough to get himself on the NHL radar.
Because he’s already 28, Danforth is not subject to NHL entry-level restrictions which gives him a bit more flexibility to work with as he looks for his first contract although the deal can’t have any performance bonuses in it either. On the surface, Columbus would make sense for the winger as they have struggled mightily when it comes to scoring this season, as they’re averaging less than 2.5 goals per game. Even though he’s a late bloomer which carries some uncertainty, Danforth could be a good fit for the Blue Jackets when he’s eligible to sign in May.