The Columbus Blue Jackets had a breakout year last season in reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs their first year in the East—and second time in franchise history—have put together a formidable team for the future.
Despite solid offseason activity which included acquiring Scott Hartnell from Philadelphia, Columbus has had to engage in serious contract negotiations with their top scorer from last year, Ryan Johansen. With the new season fast approaching, there needs to be a resolution.
Johansen, who was drafted by Columbus with the 4th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, was able to live up to his massive potential last season as he tallied 63 points and 33 goals for a solid Blue Jackets team.
The deal Columbus is looking to sign Johansen to is a short two-year bridge deal, which could be worth about $3.5 million a season. While Johansen and the team have agreed to terms on the length of the deal, they haven’t settled on compensation.
Johansen is looking to make around $7 million per season, a figure which Columbus is reluctant to pay.
While Johansen had a breakout year last season, he has only accumulated 96 points in his first three seasons combined, and Columbus wants to see more stats like last year before they invest top level money in him. The contract he is seeking puts him in the class of some elite NHL talent which includes Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Toews, who has had four 65-plus point seasons in his seven-year career, including a 48 point year during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.
The team must decide whether Johansen is worth the money he is asking for , because Johansen might consider holding out if the two sides can’t reach an agreement on a new deal.
The Johansen negotiations are eerily similar to the contract negotiations between the Montreal Canadiens and All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban. Both sides stood firm in contract talks and Subban held out through the first two weeks of the season, at which point the two sides were able to work out a deal. The difference between Subban and Johansen is that Subban has a pedigree of success in the NHL.
If its true, the Jackets won’t sign Johansen because they want him to prove he can sustain his success from a year ago, than we very well might not see Johansen in a Columbus sweater this season, because neither side looks willing to budge. If Johansen does hold out for a lengthy period of time then who can fill the large void in the lineup?
As of right now, the Blue Jackets don’t necessarily have a player with Johansen’s ability on the roster.
Some options could be veterans Nathan Horton and the aforementioned Hartnell, but they are considered as complimentary pieces that would need a player of Johansen’s caliber on their line to make a real impact. The team also boasts youngsters Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner, but in the short time they have been playing neither have shown the ability to be anything more than 50-55 point players.
Despite not having a capable replacement for him, it is also conceivable the team could look to trade Johansen. It would be expected that if that were a consideration Columbus would look for a significant package back, as many teams would certainly benefit from a relatively young 30 goal scorer, such as Johansen, on their roster.
It is worth noting that Johansen is a restricted free agent, which means he can sign a deal with another team, but Columbus has the right to match the offer. While it is doubtful that Johansen will sign an offer sheet this late in the offseason, it is expected that the Blue Jackets will match any offer he might even consider signing.
For the Jackets to remain in the playoff hunt this year Ryan Johansen must be playing. Whether or not you buy into his breakout year or not, he is the team’s best player. However, is he worth $7 million a year?
If signing him gives Columbus the opportunity for a deep run in the playoffs, then yes, he is worth every penny.
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