Columbus Blue Jackets: Grading the lengthy Oliver Bjorkstrand extension

Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Oliver Bjorkstrand has been locked down by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was announced earlier today that the Columbus Blue Jackets had signed forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to a five-year, $27 million contract extension.

The deal carries an Average Annual Value of $5.4 million and will see Bjorkstrand become a UFA after it expires in the wake of the 2025-26 season.

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Bjorkstrand could have become a Restricted Free Agent after this season, and his new deal will kick in at the start of 2021-22.

It locks up another key forward piece for the Blue Jackets, while giving Bjorkstrand long-term stability with the team that drafted him with the No. 89 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

We are going to delve into why Columbus opted to re-sign Oliver Bjorkstrand to such a long deal, before giving it an overall grade.

Let’s delve right in…

Cashing In

There is no doubt that the Columbus Blue Jackets are cashing in now with Oliver Bjorkstrand seemingly on the cusp of taking that next big leap in his play after establishing himself as a high-end top-six producer in 2019-20.

The forward recorded 36 points (21 G, 15 A) in 49 games with a plus / minus rating of +8, and would no doubt have surpassed his career-high of 40 points in 2017-18 were it not for a combination of injury and COVID-19 shortening the season.

However, Bjorkstrand did lead the Blue Jackets in goals in 2019-20 with 21 and in game-winning goals (5), while he now has two consecutive seasons of scoring at least 20 goals.

Bjorkstrand also contributed three goals in 10 Stanley Cup Playoffs games for Columbus, with his ATOI spiking from 17:56 during the regular season to 19:34 in the postseason.

The 25-year-old has 133 points (65 G, 68 A) in 246 regular-season games, all with the Blue Jackets, in addition to six goals and six assists for 12 points in 31 Playoff contests.

But, it is clear that the Columbus Blue Jackets are paying Bjorkstrand for what they think he can become with the right winger proving over the last two seasons that he can be a consistent and high-level top-six goalscorer.

He boasts an excellent shot and seems to find success both in the high slot area and around the left faceoff dot, while he is proving to be a high-end play-driver, as you can see from the chart below:

So, Bjorkstrand is quite clearly on the way up and, at 25-years-old, he’s only going to improve and get better offensively too, which is exactly what the Blue Jackets want and why they are buying four of his RFA years.

After all, on a team that lacks a real offensive star or standout, Columbus is now clearly counting on Bjorkstrand to become a consistent 20 plus goalscorer a year for them, as well as continuing to drive play at a high level.

Oliver Bjorkstrand (28)
Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

And the further you dive into the underlying metrics, the better idea you get as to how big a piece Oliver Bjorkstrand will be for the Blue Jackets over the next six seasons.

For instance, he posted a 59% xG share in 2019-20, the best mark among CBJ ‘s forwards, and he also developed good chemistry on a line with both Nick Foligno and Pierre-Luc Dubois and Gustav Nyquist and Boone Jenner.

It is also feasible to project that Bjorkstrand could see a big jump in his ATOI in 2020-21, while playing a much bigger role on a line with Dubois, who recently signed a two-year extension himself despite reports of requesting a trade.

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Overall, this is a smart piece of business by Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who is locking up a player about to hit his offensive peak for the next five years at a reasonable cap hit.

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It is also a good deal for Oliver Bjorkstrand who will earn very good money over the next five or six years, while he will still be only 30-years-old by the time he becomes a UFA, meaning that he would still be in line for a huge payday once he hits the open market if he continues on his current trajectory.