Columbus Blue Jackets: The Ryan Johansen contract saga

It is mid-august and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ top center is without a contract.

Earlier this summer, Ryan Johansen called the Jacket’s lack of a long-term offer a “slap in the face.” Now, about a month prior to preseason games, the two sides are reportedly separated by $3 million. Johansen’s agent is likely demanding $6-$7 million per season while Columbus would like him signed in the $3-$4 million range. With negotiations completely stalled, Blue Jacket fans should be worried about the long-term effects this process is having on the relationship between the sides.

Was Ryan  Johansen's breakout season a sign of things to come?

Was Ryan Johansen’s breakout season a sign of things to come?

After being drafted 4th overall in 2010, Johansen came with large expectations (and rightfully so). Johansen’s NHL career got off to a rocky start with worrisome freshman and sophomore campaigns. In year three however, he exploded for 33 goals and 63 points at the age of 21.

Clearly, both sides believe that Johansen is the future of the Blue Jackets, though CBJ management wants to see this development continue before shelling out major money. Was one breakout year enough? Johansen’s agent seems to think so.

It is safe to assume Johansen will be a Blue Jacket next season and it will be on a short-term “bridge” contract (barring an offer sheet). I am fairly certain he will agree to a two-year deal, giving him two seasons to prove he is worth a big payday. A short “bridge” contract is usually ideal for teams dealing with young, improving talent. Two comparables for Ryan Johansen are Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks and Montreal’s P.K. Subban.

Coming off a 32-goal, 56-point rookie season, the Sharks gave Couture a 2-year bridge deal worth $2.88 million per season. In those two seasons, Couture amassed 52 goals and 102 points in 128 games. The Sharks liked what they saw and granted Logan a 5-year contract worth $6M per season. The Sharks were able to make sure his breakout season wasn’t just a flash in the pan, while Couture earned himself a $30 million payout coming after his bridge contract.

Contrarily, PK Subban’s situation was a bit less beneficial to the Canadien’s organization. After the 2011-12 season, Subban wanted big dollars over a number of years. The team ended up signing him to the same bridge contract as Couture. Subban won the Norris trophy in the first year of the contract and earned himself the highest paying contract of all NHL defensemen, this summer: 8 years, $72 million dollars, for an average of $9 million per season. Had Montreal forgone the bridge deal, Subban would have signed for about 5 years and earned no more than $5-6 million per season.

In the end, Johansen should sign a two-year deal for around $5 million per season in the coming weeks. He will have to earn his long-term guarantee, as Columbus management had hoped coming into these negotiations. Speaking for everyone surrounding Blue Jacket’s hockey, one can only hope the two sides come to a fair agreement soon without further burning of bridges.