William Karlsson (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets were impressed by William Karlsson’s two-way ability as a rookie pivot and have rewarded him with a two-year, $2 million contract. Karlsson, 23, scored nine goals and 20 points, but had the highest average shorthanded ice time of any Blue Jackets forward.
The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t have much cap space, but that won’t matter if they lock up their restricted free agents to sweetheart deals like the one William Karlsson has inked with the club.
It was announced Thursday evening that Karlsson, 23, has signed a two-year contract to remain with the Blue Jackets, and that’s a great contract for Columbus. CapFriendly reported the contract is worth $1 million annually.
Though Karlsson didn’t exactly have the type of season that would lead any to believe he’s an offensive dynamo, he excelled as a depth center. In his first full campaign, he knocked home nine goals, tied for 15th in rookie goal scoring, and 20 points, which tied him for 20th in points for rookies.
“William Karlsson made great strides in his first NHL season and we believe that he is just beginning to come into his own as a player,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a release. “He is an important part of our young, core group of players and we are pleased that he will continue to grow, develop and contribute to our team as we move forward.”
What makes him more valuable, though, is his two-way play. Of all Blue Jackets forwards, none averaged more ice time when Columbus was shorthanded than Karlsson. He skated more than two minutes per game with the Blue Jackets down a man and was tied for fourth in average shorthanded time on ice on the entire team. Columbus’ penalty kill wasn’t exactly a world-beater — it finished 19th in the league at 81 percent — but Karlsson playing such an integral role so early in his career bodes well for his future as a defensive-minded pivot in Columbus.
The $1 million price tag for Karlsson is also somewhat of a steal. Granted Karlsson it’s usually goal scoring and offense that comes with a big price tag, it’s shocking that the Blue Jackets got the center to sign on for what equates to a $75,000 raise. Karlsson’s cap hit this past season was $925,000, and the $1 million salary this coming season is a modest raise.
The slight raise could be very helpful for Karlsson going forward, though. It’s a short, two-year bridge deal. If he exceeds expectations over the next two years, he’ll be in line for a raise when this contract comes up.
Originally drafted 53rd overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2011, Karlsson was acquired as part of the trade that sent James Wisniewski to California. In exchange for Wisniewski, the Blue Jackets received Karlsson, Rene Bourque and a second-round pick, 58th overall, which was used to Kevin Stenlund last June.
Columbus is still yet to lock up Seth Jones, their most important RFA, though it’s expected the Blue Jackets will reach a deal with the 21-year-old defenseman before the season begins.