Blue Jackets GM takes strong stance against Johansen's possible absence from training camp
As the possibility of starting training camp without center Ryan Johansen looks more like a reality, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen appears to be tiring of the contract negotiation and, more specifically, agent Kurt Overhardt's approach.
As a result, Kekalainen is digging in his heels and taking a hard line regarding Johansen's possible absence from camp.
Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch:
Maybe it’s because I’m European, I don’t know, but I want everybody there to start getting together and working together, and I want it to be about the team. That’s how we were successful last year and the year before - it was about the team, not about one guy. Our success is going to come from being a team, not a bunch of individuals or stars, or whatever. We’re not a star-studded team. To me it’s huge that you go through training camp together and get ready.
Once camp begins, Kekalainen continued, the focus will be on those present: "We're going to exhaust every option to get a contract done before camp. After that, we’ll focus just on the team, the guys who are here. When training camp starts, that’s it. After that, it’s guys who are there on tryouts or guys who are under contract. That’s it. That will be the only focus."
The two sides remain upwards of $3 million apart in the negotiation process, and while the GM reiterated the Jackets think Johansen has the ability to be a "special" player, they need to see more before committing the big dollars.
I've said it many, many times, that I think (Johansen) can be special. His potential is great. But we’re not there yet, after one year, when we’re willing to invest the franchise-type of money into his future. Do it once or twice more. Make us pay. Go ahead and make us pay ... We have no problem paying the dollars when it’s earned, but the key word there is "earned." While we believe in his future, we want to see him do it a little bit longer than just one year.
Kekalainen concluded by saying he hopes Johansen and co. are thinking about "his long-term future, and his long-term future with the Blue Jackets," adding "this shouldn't be about a setting a new standard (for a player coming out of his entry-level contract), or an agent breaking records."
Put it all together, and this process may be straining the relationship between player and club, while also putting undue pressure on Johansen to produce at a high level if and when he hits the ice this season.