The Blue Jackets continued an eventful summer Friday with the signing of Brandon Dubinsky to a six-year, $35.1-million contract extension.
Dubinsky was one season away from unrestricted free agency, so Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen was due to make a decision on his future with the team soon enough. However, giving an annual salary of $5.85 million (as well as no-trade/no-move clauses) to a player who hasn’t scored more than 16 goals since 2010-11 – when the 28-year-old was still a member of the New York Rangers – is a significant overpayment. Yes, the Jackets benefit from Dubinsky’s physical play and defensive skills and yes, he had a career high in assists last season (34), but his newly acquired Scott Hartnell also has an edge and can produce offense – and he’ll earn $4.75 million for this and the next four years.
Making Dubinsky the highest-paid Jacket – higher than goalie Sergei Bobrovsky ($5.625 million), James Wisniewski ($5.5 million) and Nathan Horton ($5.3 million) – sends a message that a blue-collar worker on a blue-collar team will be rewarded regardless of whether he leads the NHL in scoring. That message will be well received in Columbus’ dressing room, but the cold financial realities of the deal only hurts the Jackets’ salary cap flexibility in the years to come.
Columbus doesn’t have enough of a winning pedigree to retain its own players on the cheap, but Dubinsky’s deal is overly generous. The Jackets aren’t likely to regret keeping him around during the next two or three seasons, but given that they’re a franchise that doesn’t spend to the cap ceiling, this contract very likely could lead to tougher decisions on other, younger players (hello, restricted free agent Ryan Johansen!) down the line.