The Columbus Blue Jackets have dipped into the KHL free agent waters once again, this time signing Justin Danforth to a one-year contract. The deal is for the 2021-22 season. No financial details have been released yet, but Danforth is not limited to the entry-level system, and Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports it will be a one-way deal. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen released a statement:
Justin is a talented, offensive player coming off three outstanding seasons in the KHL and Liiga and we believe he is ready to prove himself in the National Hockey League. He has worked extremely hard to develop his game over the past five seasons and we are excited to welcome him to the Blue Jackets.
Danforth, 28, scored 55 points in 58 games this season for Vityaz Podolsk of the KHL. It’s been a long and winding road for the Oshawa, Ontario native, who spent four years at Sacred Heart University before trying his hand in the minor leagues. Though Danforth dominated at the ECHL level, he failed to get many opportunities in the AHL and took his game overseas in 2018. Two outstanding seasons in Finland followed and now after his strong KHL campaign, he has finally landed an NHL deal.
It will be a challenge for the 5’9″ forward to bring that level of offensive impact to the Blue Jackets, but it certainly appears he’ll be given a chance. Columbus has a very busy offseason ahead of them as even with Danforth, they have just 25 players signed to NHL contracts for the 2021-22 season. Kekalainen is obviously scouring every inch of the globe for talent after a disappointing season.