Columbus Blue Jackets Smart in Johansen Negotiations


Although the process of resigning Columbus Blue Jackets RFA Ryan Johansen has been unnecessarily long and annoying, it looks like the two sides might be closing in on a deal. It was announced today that Johansen’s side came to the table once again and offered the club a two-year deal. Originally, Joey’s camp was adamantly against the idea of a two-year bridge contract, but now it seems they are willing to budge. That signals that the club most likely played the smarter hand in the fight.

The original offer from the Jackets to Johansen was made before the start of NHL free agency. Johansen had not yet become a free agent, albeit restricted. When Jackets management offered him only two years, it made sense that he balked. From the player/agent perspective, they still had a chance to do better in free agency.

“If he signs an offer sheet, he signs an offer sheet. Our ownership is strong, and as I said before, we would match any offer he could possibly sign. If somebody wants to waste their time and effort on that, that’s fine for them. We’d just match it and keep the player.” -GM Jarmo Kekalainen

Knowing that Johansen was restricted, his camp could easily let the contract negotiations halt until after the start of free agency. If another team offered him a better deal than the one the Jackets offered him, they knew the Jackets would have the chance to match it. So why take a two-year deal before testing the free agency waters? Seemed like a good move.

However, it didn’t work. No one came forward and offered Johansen a deal, and his free agency hopes were dead in the water. The Jackets, however, didn’t budge. When Johansen first refused to sign a bridge deal, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and president John Davidson were content to wait. They had no reason to move from their position, because they knew they wouldn’t lose Johansen to free agency since he was restricted.

It’s likely that they knew, too, that no NHL team would be willing to offer a 21-year-old a long-term contract after just one successful season. If that was their thinking, they were right. After it became clear that Johansen wasn’t going to get any offers from other teams, club management held their ground. They didn’t make him a longer-term offer, waiting to see if his camp would budge.

They did. It became clear that if Johansen wanted to play in the NHL this upcoming season, his camp would have to give in to the Jackets’ management. Signing a bridge deal is likely all he can get, and that’s just what the Jackets wanted to see happen. They couldn’t risk signing a young, rather untested player to a long-term deal; that strategy has already proved to hurt the club in the past (ahem, Mason).

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Club management took a risk in assuming that Joey wouldn’t get offered a deal from another team, but it was a small risk. Even if he did, the club had a chance to match it. Overall, they knew he wouldn’t be able to make a better deal with anyone else, so they waited out the storm, and now it seems Johansen’s club is coming around. While the two sides still haven’t agreed on the amount Johansen is worth, they seem to have come to a deal on the length at least. With Johansen’s camp offering a two-year deal, I have even more faith in the abilities of the Blue Jackets management.