On Thursday, the team announced that they have signed the 25-year-old to a contract extension two-year contract extension worth $4.3 million. That comes out to an average annual salary cap hit of $2.15 million.
“We were very pleased with the way Nikita played after joining us last season as he became a significant contributor on our blue line,” said general manager Scott Howson in a team released statement. “He made tremendous strides this year and will continue to be an important part of what we believe is a very good group of defensemen.”
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From the time he arrived in Columbus he was almost instantly one of their best defenseman (if not the best). He played over 23 minutes a night for the Blue Jackets and scored seven goals to go with 25 assists in 61 games. The box score numbers (goals, assists) were certainly impressive, but his underlying numbers were perhaps even better.
He faced some of the toughest competition of any defensemen on the Blue Jackets roster this past season and was not only able to still produce points in what was a difficult role, he also kept the play moving in the right direction with a plus-8 relative Corsi rating (total shots for vs. total shots against at even strength). That was the best mark on the team among defensemen.
There's a lot of value in a guy that can play tough minutes like Nikitin did this past season and keep the playing going up the ice. If he is able able to duplicate his 2011-12 performance, or even come close to it, this contract should be one heck of a deal for Columbus.
He was eligible for restricted free agency this summer.