The Columbus Blue Jackets have reached a contract with their final restricted free agent, signing Andrew Peeke to a two-year deal. The contract will be worth a total of $1.575MM. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports that Peeke will earn $750K in 2021-22 and $825K in 2022-23. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen released a short statement:
Andrew is a smart, mobile defenseman, who has the ability to join the rush and make plays in all three zones. He is still a young player, but we are excited to see his continued growth within our organization as he continues to work and earn more playing time.
Peeke, 23, was the 34th overall pick in 2016 and quickly found success at Notre Dame. After three years in college, he decided to turn pro and actually played 22 games for the Blue Jackets in his first professional season. That number decreased to just 11 appearances this season, but he will be in the mix for regular ice time in 2021-22.
There will be a battle for spots in Columbus after the team moved on from Seth Jones, Ryan Murray and David Savard. Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist have both joined the fray through trade, while Mikko Lehtonen was brought back on a one-year deal. The fact that Peeke is still waiver-exempt will probably hurt him in this case, as he can go to the minor leagues at the start of the year, but that should also make him one of the first call-ups in the case of injury.
The two-year deal could potentially take Peeke to Group VI unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2025 if he fails to secure a regular spot in the lineup. Otherwise, he will be a restricted free agent eligible for arbitration.