Blue Jackets sign Bjorkstrand to 5-year contract extension

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to a five-year contract extension worth $27 million US.

The deal announced Wednesday will keep one of the team’s best young players in Columbus through the 2025-26 season. He had one season remaining on his current contract.

The 25-year-old Bjorkstrand led the team in goals (21), game-winning goals (five) and multi-point outings (11), and finished third in shots (162) despite missing 21 games due to injury in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.

He has posted 65 goals and 68 assists in 246 career games with the Blue Jackets since making his NHL debut during the 2015-16 season. He has scored 20-plus goals in back-to-back seasons and has three straight seasons with at least 36 points. He also has six goals and six assists in 31 career playoff games.

“Oliver is a gifted player that has shown steady improvement throughout (his) career to this point, and we couldn’t be happier that he will be a Blue Jacket for a very long time,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He is a dangerous offensive player, and we believe he will be an even more impactful player for us as he continues to develop and mature in this league.”

The native of Herning, Denmark, was selected by Columbus in the third round (89th overall) in 2013 NHL draft.

Zemgus Girgensons expected to be out for the year

Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons is expected to miss the entire season after having surgery to repair a hamstring injury he suffered in a team scrimmage on Monday.

The Sabres announced Girgensons’ injury upon returning to training camp Wednesday following a day off and said the timetable for recovery is about six months.

Girgensons, who is from Latvia, was preparing for his eighth season in Buffalo after being re-signed to a three-year, $6.6 million contract in October. Selected by the Sabres in the first round of the 2012 draft, he has developed into a dependable checking-line forward.

He had 12 goals and 19 points in 69 games last season. Overall, Girgensons has 61 goals and 138 points in 489 career games with the Sabres.

Buffalo, which opens the season by hosting Washington on Jan. 14, did receive some good news on Wednesday with captain Jack Eichel making his training camp debut after missing the first four days with a lower body injury. Goalie Linus Ullmark also practiced for the first time after completing his self-quarantine requirements.

The Sabres also added prospects Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn to their training camp roster a day after the two represented Canada at the World Junior championship tournament in Edmonton, Alberta. Canada won the silver medal with a 2-0 loss to the United States on Tuesday.

It’s unclear when the two will join the team.

Cozens, Buffalo’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, scored a tournament-leading eight goals and finished second with 16 points in seven games. The 19-year-old center will be given an opportunity to compete for a spot with the Sabres while still being eligible to return to his Canadian junior team in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Quinn, selected with the No. 8 pick in October, had a goal and four assists in seven games at the world juniors. The 19-year-old right wing is still eligible to return to his Canadian junior team in Ottawa.

Predators re-sign Kunin

The Nashville Predators signed restricted free agent forward Luke Kunin to a two-year, $4.6 million contract Wednesday.

Kunin was acquired by Nashville along with a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft from the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 7 in exchange for forward Nick Bonino and second- and third-round selections.

The 23-year-old recorded career-high totals in goals (15), assists (16) and points (31) in 63 games last season for the Wild. He also had a pair of tallies in four postseason games for Minnesota, which fell to the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference qualifying round.

Kunin has collected 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists) in 131 career games since being selected by the Wild with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

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