The Columbus Blue Jackets have re-signed winger Patrik Laine to a $34.8 million, four-year contract, completing the final major item on their offseason checklist.
The deal announced Friday carries an $8.7 million salary cap hit through 2026 and gives Columbus a scoring winger to go along with prized free-agent addition Johnny Gaudreau.
When they surprisingly landed Gaudreau, the big question was whether the Blue Jackets would be able to fit Laine under the cap as a restricted free agent. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen made sure that wasn't an issue.
"One of our priorities this summer was signing Patrik Laine to a contract extension," Kekalainen said. "He is a special player, one of the truly elite goal scorers in the National Hockey League, and he has fit in extremely well with our group since his arrival. He is an integral part of the team we are building in Columbus."
Laine was a point-a-game player last season in his first full year with Columbus. The 24-year-old Finn has 184 goals and 158 assists for 342 points in 431 games NHL regular-season and playoff games with the Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets.
Columbus acquired Laine with Jack Roslovic from Winnipeg in January 2021 in exchange for disgruntled center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The challenge was always keeping Laine around.
This deal does that, and it comes in the aftermath of Gaudreau blowing away the myth that players don't want to go to or stay in Columbus, after the likes of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Seth Jones all wanted out rather than signing long term.
"I thought it was a good spot for me personally," Gaudreau said after signing. "I think we can have a lot of success here. It's somewhere that I had circled on my list for a while now. It's not only from what I've heard about the city and where you live, but they've got good players on this team, too, and I'm really looking forward to jumping in with this group."
Beyond Gaudreau and Laine, that group includes top defenseman Zach Werenski, rookie center Kent Johnson, 2021 first-round pick Cole Sillinger, captain Boone Jenner and 27-year-old goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. With Laine under contract, the Blue Jackets are another step closer to returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno