The Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen took a step forward in the negotiating process yesterday, when Johansen’s side offered a 2-year deal to the club. What worries me is not whether or not they’ll be able to resign him; I believe they’ll get a deal done eventually. What worries me is how Johansen will act after the negotiations are finished and he has his new contract.
Would a 21-year-old player who sees himself as being disrespected by his team really be a good player? It’s likely that he will eventually sign a short-term deal with the team, but will he feel slighted? We’ve seen no shortage of players who have felt slighted to be playing in Columbus, and none of them ended well. Is it possible that Johansen will adopt that attitude? One thing is for sure: the Jackets can’t afford to let Johansen act like the next Jeff Carter or Marian Gaborik. If he feels disenfranchised, the Jackets could pay.
Remember the last youngster who thought he was too good for the Jackets? His name was Nikita Filatov. After scoring a hat trick in his first full NHL gane, Filatov quickly became a star in Columbus. However, he didn’t get along well with team management, namely then-coach Ken Hitchcock. After being benched for 12 of the Jackets’ first 18 games in 2009 and feuding with Hitchcock for awhile, Filatov took off and went back home to play in Russia. The Jackets retained his rights and attempted to mend relationships with Filatov many times, but eventually he was traded to Ottawa and then went back to play with Moscow.
Hopefully, Johansen isn’t the next Filatov. Filatov’s grievance wasn’t over a contract, it was over his style of play. The Jackets wanted him to work on being a more defensive winger, but he refused. There are similarities, though. Filatov thought he was too good for the style of play the Jackets wanted, and Johansen seems to think he is too good to sign the contract they want. Hopefully the Jackets learned something from the Filatov ordeal and won’t go down the same road with Joey.
It’s possible, too, that Johansen’s attitude could go the opposite way completely. Johansen’s camp showed yesterday that they aren’t completely against a two-year deal, giving the Jackets a proposed offer of that length. Perhaps this shows that all the former arguments was more posturing than actual resentment. He seems to be realizing that if he wants to play next season he is going to have to accept a bridge deal.
Realizing that and accepting a bridge deal might show Johansen that he needs to earn his right to a long-term contract in the NHL. If that happens, he’ll need to play his best for the next two seasons to prove that his 63-point season wasn’t just a fluke. The Jackets are in a period where earning their spot and proving themselves has become a team identity, and through the dealings with Johansen they are playing to that identity. They want him to prove himself, not to think he is too good for anything, because as a team that is what they are doing. That identity works well with deep, young team, but sometimes young players like Johansen take offense to it. Hopefully, though, he’ll get over it, and we’ll see the Johansen we know and love again this year.Once Johansen and the Jackets do come to a deal, I hope he continues to fit in on the team. All the players who thought they were too good for the Jackets didn’t so well here, and the team lost out too. Johansen is much younger than Carter or Gaborik, and isn’t an All-Star player. Hopefully he doesn’t adopt the All-Star attitude those two had, because it clearly didn’t work out so well in Columbus. If Johansen still feels that he is better than the Jackets think he is, things could really go downhill for both sides. If not, hopefully he will continue to be the hardworking star youngster he was last year.