Blue Jackets sign D Ryan Murray to a bridge contract- two years, $5.65 million, avoiding his pending RFA this off-season. Next up, do the same with Seth Jones and offload some players at the deadline for future assets.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed one of their key young players amid what has been a disappointing season for the club. Defenseman Ryan Murray signed a new two-year, $5.65 million deal to remain with the club through the 2017-18 season. He was due to become a restricted free agent this offseason.

It's a bridge deal in the truest sense and there are few better candidates for a short-term, low-annual average deal than Murray. There's no doubt the player has talent and loads of potential. That's why Columbus took him second overall in 2012, but injury concerns have plagued Murray before he even entered the NHL, and have made him a riskier investment.

Murray missed all but 12 games last season with injury woes and missed 16 games the season before. This year, however, Murray has appeared in all 55 games for the Blue Jackets. It's the healthiest he has been since his second year of junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips in 2010-11.

Over those 55 games with Columbus this season, Murray has 17 points. He has never been an offensive dynamo, but his smart defending and ability to move the puck have been key attributes. If he reaches his full potential, he and recent acquisition Seth Jones give Columbus a pair of defensemen they can build their blue line around for years to come. That's going to be key to the franchise's success going forward.

That said, getting the short-term deal done now allows the Blue Jackets to limit their risk while giving Murray something to play for. They very well could end up paying a vastly higher salary after Murray's next negotiation, but there's just not enough of a body of work to green light something longer-term. He has appeared in 133 NHL games over the past three seasons but is now finally getting a chance to get his pro legs under him. The end of this season and all of next will be crucial in his continued development.

Next on GM Jarmo Kekalainen's agenda should be trying to offload some talent to aid in some roster remodeling efforts heading into the offseason and locking down Jones, another pending restricted free agent, to a long-term extension. Those will be the next key steps in putting this forgettable season behind the club.