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With training camp less than a month away, the Columbus Blue Jackets and center Ryan Johansen remain far apart in their attempts to reach an agreement on a new contract.
As per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, "The sides are roughly $3 million apart per season on a two-year contract, an enormous gap at this stage of the summer." Further to that, Portzline reports the Blue Jackets are believed to be offering an annual salary between $3.5 million and $4 million, while Johansen’s camp is believed to be seeking upward of $7 million per season, arguing Johansen is the club's most talented offensive player.
While general manager Jarmo Kekalainen asserts there is “plenty of time to get a deal done,” he adds the relationship between the club and the 22-year-old could become strained if Johansen holds out from training camp:
It’s a business. But for me, the team is always first. Everything we do - whether you’re a star, a fourth-liner, a grinder, the tough guy, a depth guy - this is all about the team. That’s why you have to be in camp the first day. That’s when it starts, and that’s when the team comes together.
It’s very, very important that we start as a team. To me, that is huge. That’s going to be a very serious matter from a team point of view.
Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, seems more than ready to go down that road if necessary.
"If [Johansen's] not in camp, the pressure slips to the other side ... This is a very unique, top-line player in the NHL," Overhardt said. "There’s a clear market for a player of this caliber; it’s a small market, but he’s one of them. There are several teams that covet his size, his skill and his continued upside.”
It should be noted that several of Overhardt's clients have missed the start of training camp due to contract disputes, including Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky in 2009.
In 2006, Overhardt and then-Vancouver center Ryan Kesler signed an offer sheet with Philadelphia as camp was set to open, but the Canucks decided to match.
Such a scenario has yet to develop, but Kekalainen is on record as saying the Blue Jackets would indeed match any offer sheet signed by Johansen.
Johansen led the Blue Jackets in scoring last season with 33 goals and 30 assists in 82 games.