After a standoff that went all summer and threatened to stretch into the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets have signed centre Ryan Johansen.
According to NHL.com the Blue Jackets signed the 22-year-old Johansen to a 3 year $12 million dollar deal. The deal is said to be worth $3 million per year in the first two years and $6 million in the third. The cap hit is based on the average annual value and will be $4 million.
The signing is great news for the Jackets who were looking at starting the year without both Johansen and the injured Nathan Horton and Boone Jenner. The negotiations became public and ugly only a few weeks ago when team President John Davidson publically disclosed the offers the team had made to the player in order to illustrate how far apart the two camps were.
Last season, Johansen, who is a 6′ 3″ 220lbs prototypical number one centre, set a career high in his breakout season with 33 goals and 30 assists. This was such a massive step up from the pro-rated ten goals and 14 assists he was on pace for the prior, lockout shortened season that the Jackets understandably wanted to see him repeat it before giving into contract demands that were rumored to place him among the most well paid players in hockey.
Worried about setting a team precedent, the Jackets refused to cave to these demands even though a long-term contract – as opposed to the ever popular “bridge” deal – would likely have saved them long-term money, provided the one year outburst wasn’t a fluke. Which, let’s be honest: it wasn’t. The odds of the massive and talented Johansen not duplicating or improving on that season are low. He is a former 4th overall pick and his talent/size combination was enough to make the rest of the NHL drool over the prospect of him becoming available through trade.
The structure of this contract is important to note. While the cap hit is a reasonable (probably outrageously team friendly considering his potential) $4 million, the last year of the deal is worth $6 million. When the contract expires, Johansen will still be a group 2 free agent, meaning he would not be unrestricted and has to sign with the Blue Jackets, be traded, or sign an offer sheet which the Blue Jackets would then have the right to match, provided that they make him a qualifying offer (the amount needed to retain his rights) of $6 million dollars.
What this means is that if for some unforeseen reason Johansen does not live up to this contract, the Blue Jackets will have to pay him at least $6 million per year no matter what, or let him walk away for nothing.
Overall, it’s an interesting compromise. The player does not get to become unrestricted when the deal is over, and is set up with a minimum of $6 million per year going forward. The team wins too because they get a very nice cap hit over the next three seasons and they get two years of incredible value at $3 million each before doubling his salary in the last year. Considering that Johansen’s career potential is that of someone equal to or better than Ryan Getzlaf, that is some pretty good value.