When the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Brandon Dubinsky to a six-year, $35.1 million contract extension, they were tying themselves to the man that might become the team’s captain.
He’s not their best player though nor does he claim to be. He feels that distinction will — perhaps already does — belong to Ryan Johansen, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The two share an agent and while Dubinsky described the negotiations for his contract extension as painless, it looks like Johansen’s have been more complicated.
“We’re not even close,” Johansen said in June. “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.”
Johansen, who is a restricted free agent, described the Blue Jackets actions at the time as “disrespectful” and “like a slap in the face.”
Of course, it’s not hard to figure out why Dubinsky’s negotiations would go differently. He’s a known quantity at this point while Johansen, 21, only has one great season under his belt. Johansen scored 33 goals and 63 points in 82 games and was highly regarded even before that, but for Columbus to assume that he will just continue to steadily grow would be risky.
On top of that, Columbus is negotiating from a position of strength with the 21-year-old forward while Dubinsky could have simply walked away as an unrestricted free agent next summer if he didn’t like what was on the table.
“It’s important – not only me selfishly, to want him signed up and in the lineup to help our team win – but it’s important for our organization and it’s important for him. He wants to be a big part of this organization,” Dubinsky said.
Columbus was put in a similar position last season when goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky wrapped up his entry-level contract by winning the Vezina Trophy. That process was arguably even more complicated because there was the looming threat of him going to the KHL. At one point it looked like Columbus might even trade his rights, but they eventually agreed to a two-year bridge contract worth $11.25 million.
Perhaps the talks with Johansen will come to a similar conclusion.