The Columbus Blue Jackets would be smart to move on from Ryan Johansen. Not because they don’t need him, but because he needs them. And he’ll realize that soon enough.
Following a breakout season where he posted a team-leading 63 points, Johansen has yet to sign a new deal with Columbus. He’s sitting on his restricted free agent status while his teammates have begun preseason play. All signs point to Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt as the reason for the contract impasse. In a recent press conference, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said Overhardt wanted to double a contract offer worth $6 million over two years. On Monday, a CBS Sports report said Overhardt had lowered that asking price to $2.6 million per season.
The Blue Jackets have already offered $32 million over six years and $46 million over eight years, Davidson said. Overhardt rejected each offer.
While team executives don’t normally publicize contract negotiations, Davidson and Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen had apparently grown tired of Overhardt’s antics.
Consequently, in the midst of training camp, Columbus is no longer shaping its lines around the 22-year-old who led the team with 33 goals last season.
The Blue Jackets are pushing forward and it’s a smart move from a side that holds leverage.
Johansen’s numbers were abysmal through his first couple seasons. He recorded 33 points through 107 games before last year, and was a left out of the 2013 American Hockey League playoffs despite being healthy.
Regardless of what happened last season, the Blue Jackets would be irresponsible to offer Johansen a hefty contract based on such a small sample size. What happens if their star center licks the envelope and mails it in next season?
It seems the only agreement between Columbus and Overhardt has been on the length of the contract. Both sides are working toward a two-year deal, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Davidson said Overhardt wants his client to be paid more per year than Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, who signed a five-year, $26.25 million contract in 2013 and had 64 more points than Johansen through his first three years in the league.
While the term of Benn’s deal is longer, Davidson’s comparison between Overhardt’s wishes and Benn’s contract is enough to justify Columbus’ frustration.
Johansen is foolish not to sign the Blue Jackets’ two-year, $6 million offer. The deal could position him for a huge payday if he continues his production through the 2015-16 season.
Speculation suggests Overhardt is lobbying for a contract similar to Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene’s. After registering 150 points through his first three seasons, Duchene signed for $7 million over two years in June 2012.
Unfortunately for Johansen, a two-year, $7 million deal is normally reserved for players who produce more than 14 goals through their first two seasons.
The Blue Jackets tabling $6 million over two years is a gift to Johansen. He’s getting $3 million per year to prove he’s worth a long-term, big-money deal.
But the longer Johansen waits, the more he might cut into his production for this upcoming season.
He’s already missing the preseason, and while training camp isn’t the fitness wake up call it used to be, Johansen is still missing the benefit of playing alongside new linemates before the games start to mean anything.
It’s time for Johansen to realize his position and sign a new deal.
Columbus is ready.