The Columbus Blue Jackets have added some forward depth, signing Sean Kuraly to a four-year contract according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia tweets that the deal will be worth a total of $10MM. The $2.5MM AAV is more than double that of Kuraly’s previous contract with the Boston Bruins, implying that Columbus could have greater plans for the center than just a fourth line role.
This contract was one of the more easily anticipatable free agency deals this summer. Kuraly is a Dublin, Ohio native and Miami University grad, making his connection to Columbus obvious. For a team whose inability to retain talent in recent years has become an unfortunate focal point, it makes sense that they would commit long-term to a player who very much wants to play in the city. This is also not the first time that the Blue Jackets have targeted a Bruins fourth-line center in free agency; Riley Nash was the player that Kuraly replaced in Boston after he departed for a raise and greater role in Columbus, a move the team likely considered a success.
At 28, it may not seem that Kuraly has more room to grow. However, at times with the Bruins he flashed top-nine ability and arguably played better off the fourth line than on it. That is not to say that Kuraly isn’t an accomplished checker and smart two-way asset, but he could have the chance to produce at a much higher level if handed an elevated role by the Blue Jackets. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, Kuraly recorded back-to-back seasons of over 20 points despite not playing full seasons and being limited almost exclusively to a fourth line role. 30+ points per year is not out of the question for the newest pivot in Columbus.