The Columbus Blue Jackets are losing key players daily. This time it is Zach Werenski who will miss the rest of the regular season. The star defenseman will undergo surgery next week to repair a sports hernia that he has been playing through much of the season. GM Jarmo Kekalainen explained that the decision to have surgery now will allow Werenski to be at full strength in time for training camp in the fall.
Werenski joins Boone Jenner and Riley Nash on the sidelines as the deadline approaches, with all three players likely done for the rest of the regular season. Given the team is also holding David Savard out in anticipation of a trade, the Blue Jackets season is all but over. The team now sits just six points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for last place in the Central Division, though technically are also just seven points out of a playoff spot.
This will go down as a lost season for Werenski despite his strong production of late. The 23-year-old defenseman will end the year with seven goals and 20 points in 35 games, averaging more than 24 minutes a night for the first time in his career.
Notably, Werenski is under contract with the Blue Jackets for just one more season and will reach restricted free agency in the summer of 2022. At that point, he will be coming off a $7MM salary and since his contract was signed before the new CBA rules came into effect, just his qualifying offer will match that $7MM. Of course, he will also be eligible for arbitration, a place where his outstanding counting stats will provide plenty of leverage. Since entering the league in 2016-17 as a teenager, Werenski ranks third among all defenders in goals with 65, behind only Brent Burns and Dougie Hamilton.