Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets made some “significant progress” toward a contract agreement recently, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
There are a few things to note before anyone gets too excited, however. For one thing, it’s unclear how much more “significant progress” is needed. It’s also crucial to note that such good news is coming from Johansen’s representatives, while the Blue Jackets didn’t respond to the Dispatch’s requests for confirmation.
Even so, the report points to a very important area of progress. At first, the 21-year-old restricted free agent was very much against a shorter “bridge” contract, but now it sounds like his side is bending to the idea of a two or three-year deal.
Money might still be a sticking point between the two sides, but it makes sense that the Blue Jackets might balk at a longer term. They’d likely prefer to see Johansen replicate (or even top) his performance from 2013-14, as he saw a huge leap over his previous production.
Despite what might be occasionally icy talks, it seems clear that both sides want to get a deal done.
“Ryan wants to be a Blue Jacket and he wants to be in Columbus,” Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt said. “That has never been an issue in any of this. He loves it there.”
Overhardt notes that Johansen was very pleased that the time re-signed Brandon Dubinsky, as you can see from this cheeky tweet:
The fourth pick of the 2010 NHL Draft scored 63 points in 82 games and six points in as many playoff contests last season after only managing 33 points in his first 107 career NHL appearances. Considering that huge leap and his tantalizing potential, it’s a bit difficult to forecast what kind of deal is appropriate for both sides, especially since Johansen is an RFA.
Perhaps we’ll find out before training camp?
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.