After negotiations for Ryan Johansen’s new deal got off to a less-than-stellar start, Columbus president of hockey ops John Davidson took an interesting approach on Friday — discussing the situation publicly for the first time.
“Jarmo [Kekalainen, Columbus GM] is still working with Johansen’s camp. We’re a team that feels that if we have players that earn it, we will certainly respond with appropriate contracts,” Davidson explained, per the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re in a position here where we’re working with their camp, trying to figure out what exactly is the right thing to do.”
Johansen, 21, is coming off a monster breakout season in which he finished tied for 11th in the NHL in goals (33) and led the Jackets in points, with 63. He was a huge reason Columbus made the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history and performed well in his postseason debut, scoring six points in six games against Pittsburgh.
But that doesn’t mean Columbus is backing up the Brinks truck.
For all that Johansen did last year, it’s still just one year’s worth of work. And remember — this is a player who, at the end of the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, was benched by Columbus’ minor-league affiliate in Springfield due to lackadaisical play.
According to the Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, rumors that Johansen wants a deal of four-plus years while Columbus wants a two-year bridge contract are probably accurate. That disparity in term is why Johansen was so irate following the opening round of negotiations:
“We’re not even close,” Johansen told The Dispatch. “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.
“I’ve earned more than a two- or three-year deal with my play,” Johansen said. “It seems a little disrespectful, to be honest.”
Since an offer sheet seems highly unlikely — Kekalainen’s already said he’d match anything another team puts forth — it sounds as though we’re in for a good ol’ fashioned staring contest between Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, and Davidson.
“We like Ryan Johansen, obviously. Who wouldn’t? But we’ve got to make sure,” JD explained. “We have to be a responsible club regarding long-term contracts.
“If Ryan keeps the upward trend, he’s going to have a long and very fruitful career. But we have to make sure we protect ourselves.”