The Columbus Blue Jackets open camp on Sept. 18. Their best centerman, and arguably their best offensive player, isn’t expected to be there.
Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch doubts that Johansen will be on the ice to start camp – a negotiating tactic from agent Kurt Overhardt as the two sides battle over a new contract for the restricted free agent.
Here’s how he handicaps the current talks:
The two sides can't agree on much, it seems, except this: There is nothing new to report. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
The Blue Jackets' position: Johansen does not have arbitration rights. He does not have an offer sheet from another club to sign. He has had one productive NHL season and will be paid accordingly. Here's $3.5 million per year for two years. Blow us away and we'll talk motherlode, long-term contract in 2016.
Johansen's position, through agent Kurt Overhardt: Johansen is 22 years old and he's one of the top centers in the NHL. He is a budding superstar, the likes of which your franchise has NEVER seen. He will be paid accordingly ... $7 million per season.
It’s hard not to sympathize with the Jackets here.
Their approach with Johansen is completely reasonable, given his accomplishments and their rights with him as a restricted free agent. The team is coming off the most successful season in franchise history. Johansen was a reason for that, and any interruption in his season could adversely affect a repeat.
This isn’t to say Johansen is wrong to use whatever’s at his disposal to get the contract he wants; only to say that we feel your pain, ‘Lumbus.
Portzline doesn’t rule out a veteran coming into camp on a tryout, and drops the name of Saku Koivu a few times. Which wouldn’t be a terrible landing spot at all for him.