“We’re not even close.”
These were the frank and deeply concerning words Columbus Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen said when asked about his contract talks with the team. Not “I’m optimistic.” Not even “we’re working on it.” Either of those would’ve been much more welcomed responses for Columbus fans. No, instead, they got “we’re not even close.”
Johansen just finished up the final year of his rookie deal, and is now officially a restricted free agent. After two lukewarm seasons, he exploded onto the scene this year, scoring 33 goals and 63 points. Johansen’s contributions were a huge reason why the Jackets were able to make their second playoff appearance in franchise history, and now he’d like what he feels is appropriate compensation.
Apparently, Johansen feels he and the team have differing definitions of the word “appropriate.”
“They say ‘We want to sign you to a ‘bridge’ deal.’ We say ‘We don’t want to do a ‘bridge,’ and that’s the end of it,” he said. “I want to play in Columbus, and I want to be a Blue Jacket, but I want to get this done,” Johansen said. “It seems like a slap in the face.”
For obvious reasons, no team wants to hear one of their best players call a contract offer a slap in the face. Johansen feels he’s earned himself a long contract with plenty of dollar signs. Columbus, it appears, wants to give him a safe, two to three year deal just to be sure he can maintain this level of success. Neither side is essentially wrong, but it also sounds like both Johansen and the Jackets front office are keeping their stances firm.
Johansen fired the first shot today, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Columbus fans started worrying. However, should the front office feel the same way?
Situations like this are very tricky. Since Johansen is a restricted free agent, Columbus has the right to match any offer sheet he might receive. The second these quotes surfaced, you know there were a few teams out there beginning to keep tabs on this situation with hopes of stealing away such a young and talented forward. All it takes is one offer the Jackets just don’t have the cap space to match and Johansen could be a goner.
But is Johansen legitimately upset with Columbus? Or is this statement merely to shake the front office into revising their offer so this can all end peachy for both sides?
We’ve seen it happen numerous times, at least once an offseason. A player publically scoffs at the first offer he receives, the team changes their proposal, said player resigns and all bad blood is gone. A similar situation happened with the Jackets when it came to resigning former winger Rick Nash in 2009. The onetime franchise player said something along the lines of being upset with an offer and that he sadly had to start looking at other teams. Then, surprise surprise, he resigned with Columbus upon receiving a new proposal.
So, no, the immediate response to Johansen’s comments shouldn’t be a combination of panic and handing him a blank check. It could very well be another instance of strategic posturing. However, the team can’t just assume this is the case and stay firm in their offer. They know what Johansen wants, and they know he’s nowhere near thrilled with what the deal looks like now. Such is life in the complicated world of contract negotiations.
The brunt nature of Johansen’s comments regarding this situation should certainly be taken seriously by Columbus, but the two sides can still work together to figure out a deal each can be a fan of. Johansen said nothing along the lines of “I don’t want to be here anymore,” so the door hasn’t been slammed. There’s plenty of time left in the offseason for the Jackets to get him resigned, so for the moment, there’s no reason to freak out.