Report: Blue Jackets, Johansen still 'hectares' apart in contract negotiations
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The ongoing contract negotiations between the Columbus Blue Jackets and star restricted free agent center Ryan Johansen remain at loggerheads.
Though Johansen and his Denver-based agent Kurt Overhardt have caved to Columbus' preferred "bridge-contract" framework for Johansen's second professional contract, the two sides are nowhere close on the money.
The two sides were believed to be at least $3 million apart per season on a two-year deal at that point, and it doesn't appear that much progress has been made.
Asked this weekend if they were still far apart, one of the interested parties responded via text: "Hectares."
For those metric users, that's 10,000 square meters. For non-metric users, that's 2.47 acres. For those non-math types, that's a big ol' gap.
Johansen, 22, was the fourth overall pick at the 2010 NHL entry draft and enjoyed a breakout campaign for Columbus during the 2013-14 NHL season. The man-child centerman led all Blue Jackets in scoring by a wide margin while logging first-line minutes and factoring into both of Columbus' special teams units. The Blue Jackets were arguably the most improved club in the league last season, and the emergence of Johansen as a prototypical first-line pivot was a major reason.
While Johansen's potential, size, pedigree, and skill level are unquestioned, the cornerstone centerman has only performed at a blue chip level in one of his first three professional seasons. Despite Johansen's elite level of play in the 2013-14 season, the Blue Jackets seem leery of committing to a player who is just over a year removed from being a healthy scratch in the Calder Cup playoffs. As Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said in mid-July:
We have to be a responsible club regarding long-term contracts. If Ryan keeps the upward trend, he’s going to have a long, very fruitful career. But we have to make sure we protect ourselves.
If Johansen continues to progress, and he's probably already a top-10 two-way centerman in the league, he'll cost an arm and a leg to sign when he's an arbitration eligible RFA two summers from now.
Considering how negotiations between the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. Subban recently played out, it seems a bit odd that the small market Blue Jackets wouldn't jump at the opportunity to use their current leverage to lock up a player of Johansen's caliber for longer than two years. The young Vancouver-born center seems like a very safe bet to be a bona fide first-line pivot with a lot of value in all three zones throughout his prime.
You can watch all of Johansen's 33 goals from the 2013-14 season in this video: