Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets wants the security of a long-term contract, at least until he earns the right to leave the franchise as an unrestricted free agent – should he choose to do so.
That’s the vibe one gets from Aaron Portzline’s piece on the crumbling talks between the spectacular young center and the Jackets, which are at an impasse:
“We’re not even close,” Johansen told The Dispatch. “They say ‘We want to sign you to a ‘bridge’ deal.’ We say ‘We don’t want to do a ‘bridge,’ and that’s the end of it.”
The Blue Jackets want to sign Johansen to a two- or three-year contract, which would expire when he still was a restricted free agent. Johansen, 21, who led the Blue Jackets and was 11th in the NHL with 33 goals last season, wants at least a four-year deal, sources said, after which he would become an unrestricted free agent. He was the youngest 30-goal scorer in the NHL last season.
“I’ve earned more than a two- or three-year deal with my play,” Johansen said. “It seems a little disrespectful, to be honest. ... I want to play in Columbus, and I want to be a Blue Jacket, but I want to get this done. It seems like a slap in the face.”
The bridge contract continues to be a contentious topic for teams and their young players. The former party sees it as a necessity to fully evaluate a player as a pro and to keep a young player hungry. The latter party sees it as Johansen sees it, which is a “slap in the face” when that player feels he’s already been patient and proven himself.
But the fact is that for elite talent, the bridge contract works. Matt Duchene took one and then signed a 5-year, $30-million deal. P.K. Subban took one and it’s going to take a NASA supercomputer to figure out how much he’s making on his next contract.
The way things are trending for Columbus, the same good fortune would seem likely for Johansen, but that’s not what he’s after. He’s after four seasons at a salary he thinks he’s owed, and then the negotiating power of pending unrestricted free agency to put the screws to the Jackets – or to hit the open market.
We’d say things could get ugly here, but that would mean they already haven’t, and your 21-year-old star center squawking about slaps to the face is ugly. It’s also a nice negotiating ploy to move things along, as is agent Kurt Overhardt banging the offer sheet drum until Jarmo Kekalainen hears it. As if any team is going to take a run at an RFA on a John Davidson franchise; the dude plays hardball.