The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed Justin Danforth to a one-year, $1.1MM contract extension, carrying him through the 2024-25 season. Danforth played in his first NHL season in 2021-22 but missed all but six games of the 2022-23 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Danforth, now 30, took roughly a year to rebound fully from the injury. But he made a strong enough impression at the team’s training camp to earn an NHL roster spot once more. He’s had a winding road to the NHL, originally going undrafted and pursuing collegiate hockey with Sacred Heart University. After four years of college, Danforth transitioned into the minor leagues – although he struggled to maintain a presence in the AHL. Rather than continuing to work his way up through the ECHL and AHL, Danforth instead signed with Lukko in the Liiga, Finland’s top league. He played in 59 games for their 2018-19 squad, recording a team-high 52 points. Danforth built his comfortability up enough to take on an alternate captain role with the club in 2019-20. He led Lukko in scoring again that year, tallying 60 points through 56 games.
After two years in Finland, Danforth then appeared in one season with Vityaz Podolsk of the KHL, Russia’s top league. He played in 58 games and, once again, led his team in scoring with 55 points. This burgeoning trend of scoring upside earned Danforth a spot on Canada’s 2021 World Championship roster. He appeared in nine of the team’s 10 games but only recorded one point playing alongside NHL talent.
It wasn’t until after his sole season in the KHL that Danforth finally received his first NHL contract – a one-year, league-minimum $775K deal with the Blue Jackets signed in May of 2021. Danforth appeared in his first NHL games during the 2021-22 campaign, scoring 10 goals and 14 points in 45 appearances. In response, Columbus signed Danforth to a two-year, one-way, $1.95MM contract that carries him through the end of the 2022-23 season. And while he hasn’t yet played more than 10 games on this contract, Columbus is clearly confident in what they have – extending Danforth through next season and providing him his first salary north of $1MM.