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Report: Blue Jackets preparing 'to play without Johansen in the lineup'

Bruce Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY

Columbus Blue Jackets Ryan Johansen remains the most high profile restricted free agent yet to sign a new contract, and it appears as though the club is preparing to enter training camp and possibly the regular season without their number one center in the lineup.

As per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:

At this point, it seems highly unlikely Johansen will be on the ice at the start of training camp. [Kurt] Overhardt [Johansen's agent] will use that as leverage, as he has many, many times with clients in the last decade, including Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky in 2009 when he played for the New York Rangers.

The Blue Jackets, thus, must be prepared to play without Johansen in the lineup. They've already had discussions to that end.

Portzline further suggests the team could bring in a veteran free agent on a tryout basis, but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen says that's unlikely at this point.

In the meantime, Johansen is working towards getting in game shape, and is reported to be, "noticeably thicker and stronger in [the] upper body."

With still a few weeks left until the start to training camp, there remains sufficient time to get a deal done and avoid all of the above; however, the two sides are believed to be $3 million apart, a sizable gap to close to be sure.

[H/T Kukla's Corner]

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