The Blue Jackets got off to a head start with their offseason work this afternoon, signing restricted free agent forward Yegor Chinakhov to a one-year contract extension.
This may have been the most important bit of work within the current roster for GM Jarmo Kekalainen this summer. Chinakhov and fourth line right wing Mathieu Olivier were the only NHL regulars that would be due new contracts this summer – with Chinakhov clearly being of a higher pedigree.
Originally drafted by the Jackets 21st overall at the 2020 NHL Draft, Chinakhov has struggled to stay healthy since a high ankle sprain sidelined him on December 19th. Currently he’s assigned to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, where he’s been in and out of the lineup recently dealing with other ailments. Through 7 games in Cleveland, he has 3 goals and 8 points – along with an impressive 27 shots on goal.
This season in Columbus, he skated in 30 games, scoring 4 goals and 13 points in the process. But honestly the stats don’t tell the full story here, I though Yegor was really starting to come around before he suffered the unfortunate injury, and it happened just as opportunities to play higher in the lineup were presenting themselves.
At 6-1 and over 200 pounds, he’s surprisingly agile and quick on the ice, but it’s his lethal wrist shot that separates him from the pack. He can absolutely wire the puck with little wind up, and looks every bit the part of a future 30 goal scorer in the NHL. All of this on top of being a willing learner and competitor on the defensive side, though he still needs time to develop there. Jarmo gives his thoughts here:
"“Yegor has show great improvement this season despite missing considerable time over the past few months due to injury,” said Kekalainen. “He is a talented player with a great work ethic and desire to improve, and we are very excited about his future with the Blue Jackets.”"
Ultimately, Yegor seems to have become an afterthought as part of this team’s future core … but I still feel like he’s an important piece for this team to build around. While Kirill Marchenko has stepped in and wowed us with his immediate impact, we can’t forget that Chinakhov is actually a year younger than Kirill – and he has a lot of the same instincts and capabilities.
With this one year, $800k extension, Chinakhov is betting on himself to earn a greater role and thus, more money on an extension after next season. If this year with Marchenko is any indication of what Chinakhov might become, this is a wise move by the youngster. For now, it’s just exciting to see this business taken care of in a tidy way, well before the offseason.