Within the past 48 hours, the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Scott Hartnell – while shipping R.J. Umberger back to the Philadelphia Flyers. While this deal strengths the Blue Jackets, Hartnell’s contract is officially on the books for $4.75 million through the 2018-2019 season. However, there is one Blue Jacket who isn’t on the books for next season.
That Blue Jacket is Ryan Johansen. The same Johansen that was responsible for 33 goals last season – and two more goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs– is a restricted free agent with an estimated qualifying contract at $855 thousand — granted, this would be the absolute minimum the Blue Jackets would need to offer Johansen. In reality, signing Johansen will cost in the millions of dollars. By being the point leader on the Blue Jackets last season, and with the likes of Brandon Dubinsky and James Wisniewski making $4.65 million and $5 million, respectively, expect Johansen to be paid big bucks — somewhere in the ballpark of $4-5 million.
Cap space isn’t a problem for the Blue Jackets — there is an estimated $21 million dollars that can be spent. Let say that in an alternate universe, Johansen signs for $4.50 million. That contract will make Johansen the highest paid center on the Blue Jackets — about a million more than what Artem Anisimov– and puts him under the limelight for another breakout year. Remember, the All-Star game is in Columbus, OH this season because of the lockout. How great would it be if the Blue Jackets gave out the big bucks to Johansen, he then has another break out season, and garners a spot in the All Star game in his home arena? The attention that Johansen could be given is astronomical. By signing Johansen to a big-dollar deal would also enhance the Blue Jackets stance on becoming a tour de force in the Eastern Conference.
If the Blue Jackets lose their star goal –and point– scorer from last season, then the reliance builds on the rest of the team to produce the points. Is the team capable of doing that? Absolutely. However, you don’t want Johansen to sip too much of the market-ade, and go somewhere else. A nightmare scenario would be that Johansen signs with an Eastern Conference foe — maybe the Capitals??– and runs the table inside the Verizon Center instead of Nationwide Arena. Granted, that was a nightmare scenario that I literally just pulled out of thin air, but do you see the point? Letting Johansen leave will cause more harm than good to the Blue Jackets. I can’t speak for Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets GM, but I know he wants to bring back Johansen; contract talks were in discussion a few weeks ago.
Told contract talks bw pending RFA Ryan Johansen and #CBJ are underway. Johansen/agent made preliminary proposal to GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) June 4, 2014
The Draft is a mere two days away, the fact that Johansen hasn’t resigned yet makes fans anxious. One would rather have their star player under a contract rather than walking around with an RFA tag — and the piranha of teams that will do what they can to pry him away from Columbus. On the other side of the coin, hockey is a business. If the Blue Jackets and Johansen can’t agree to terms, then they would unfortunately have to part ways. However, I doubt that the Blue Jackets will let Johansen go. If the offer is $4-5 million, consider it a done deal. If it’s more, some contemplating will be done, but I think the endgame results in Johansen returning with a big contract — with a hefty amount of years.
Like I said before, this Blue Jackets team is committed to winning. I’ve preached this over and over again, and it’s true. Hartnell being signed was a mild splash of an off-season move that drew headlines in Columbus. Johansen resigning would be equally — if not bigger– than the Hartnell trade. A new contract for Johansen solidifies the Blue Jackets as a real threat in the East; it’s only a signature on Blue Jacket letterhead from being reality.