With restricted free-agent defenseman Zach Werenski still unsigned, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is worried about the effect an unresolved contract situation could have on his team with training camp set to begin Sept. 13.
"The real frustration for me (is when a contract negotiation) drags on into training camp, because that's a time for 'team,'" Kekalainen said, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "That's the time when the boys come here together. They start preparing and jelling and building that chemistry that we need as a team.
"When it goes to training camp time, it takes away from that preparation. It takes away from the team. That's what I'm concerned about."
Werenski, 22, is reportedly seeking a three-year deal worth at least $15 million. Earlier in August, Kekalainen expressed faith in the 6-foot-2 rearguard signing a new deal before camp, telling NHL.com, "I'm confident that everything will get done and that he wants to be part of the team right from the start (of training camp)."
The Blue Jackets face an important training camp as they look to fill holes on the roster following the offseason departures of key forwards Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, and Ryan Dzingel, as well as franchise netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
With September fast approaching, Kekalainen maintains a firm stance on the importance of resolving contract negotiations before team activities commence.
"And that's where we've drawn the hard line before: We don't believe in taking that preparation time away from the team," he said. "We think it should be resolved before the team gets together and gets ready for the season."
Selected eighth overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2015 NHL Draft, Werenski has tallied 38 goals and 128 points over 237 career contests.