The Blue Jackets have been awfully savvy with all of their young players and on the weekend, which was missed by me at first, they signed standout defender, Kris Russell, to a new 3-year contract extension, reportedly worth $3.9 million. Russell was scheduled to become a restricted free agent in July, coming off his original entry-level deal. He was not able to start negotiation on a new deal until this season, so the Blue Jackets were quick to act on him.
In 2009, Russell broke into the league on more of a full-time basis, playing in 66 games and picking up 21 points. So far in 2010, he has two assists in the first five games for Columbus, but he is certainly picking up more responsibilities with the club, including getting some very reasonable minutes. He should blossom into a great fantasy defenseman, but he's still working on his learning curve, so he won't be a big impact player right away.
The extension won't kick in until next season, so there is no immediate impact here. The Jackets have been very proactive with their team, now having 19 players signed on at a very reasonable cap rate of $48.5 million. That is an amazing pair of numbers, especially with how teams are building a lot more in the Summer. It must be very comforting for the superstars on the team to know that they will be with this group of players for a while now.
I'm a big fan of Kris Russell and have my eye on him in future seasons. I think I had him to breakout a little more this year, likely finishing in the 35-point range. If he can get there this season, I don't see why he couldn't hit the 50-point range in the season after or maybe one more after that. He's got plenty of offensive upside and will need the power play minutes to really pick up his production. It's coming, it's just a matter of time.