After re-signing Liam Foudy on Friday, the Blue Jackets have taken care of another one of their pending free agents today as they announced the signing of center Brendan Gaunce to a two-year, two-way contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team but Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that he’ll make $750K in the NHL next season and $450K in the minors while in 2023-24, his NHL salary goes up slightly to $775K while the minor league portion remains $450K. There is a guaranteed payout of $475K each season. GM Jarmo Kekalainen released the following statement about the 28-year-old:
Brendan is a competitive forward with good size who can play both the center and wing. He played well last season and brings versatility and depth to our forward group.
Gaunce spent the 2020-21 season in Sweden before deciding to return to North America last season where he inked a two-way deal with Columbus. He split this season between Columbus and AHL Cleveland where, as Kekalainen alluded to, he spent time both down the middle and on the wing. With the Blue Jackets, he suited up in 30 games, recording five goals and two assists while averaging just over eight minutes per game. In the minors, Gaunce was considerably more productive, picking up 16 goals and 12 helpers in 39 contests.
Gaunce is likely to play a similar role with Columbus for these next two seasons. He isn’t much of a risk of being claimed off waivers having cleared three times in the past and could play a key role with the Monsters at times. With an AAV of just over $762K, he won’t cost much to keep around at the end of the roster where his versatility will certainly be useful.
Kekalainen still has a lot of work to do this summer as the Blue Jackets still have 15 players whose contracts are set to expire next month, headlined by pending restricted free agents Patrik Laine and Adam Boqvist.