So what happens if the Columbus Blue Jackets and restricted free agent Ryan Johansen are unable to reach a deal prior to the start of training camp next month?
Columbus Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline asked this very question in is blog Saturday.
According to Portzline, the two sides had nothing new to report on contract negotiations as of Friday.
The Blue Jackets have reportedly offered the 22-year-old a two-year contract worth $7 million with a long-term deal to be negotiated in 2016. However, Johansen’s camp is looking for a deal worth a reported $7 million per season after the 6-foot-3, 223-pound center had a career year scoring 33 goals and 63 points in 2013-14.
For those wondering, the Blue Jackets currently have over $14 million in cap space to play with.
With neither side budging, Portzline suggests a number of available unrestricted free agents, who could be invited to Columbus’ camp.
Saku Koivu, Dustin Penner, Michal Handzus, Andrei Loktionov, David Steckel, Ryan Malone, Ville Leino, Colin Fraser, Daniel Carcillo and Ryan Carter, are among those without contracts.
Despite Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen saying a camp invite is unlikely, Portzline believes the Finnish connection makes Koivu the likely candidate.
As for the Johansen contract, one has to believe a short-term deal or bridge contract is likely. Other young players, who’ve signed short-term following a breakout season include Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri. On Friday, Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz agreed to a one-year deal hoping to cash in next summer.
If Subban is any indication, barring a major setback, Johansen will get paid what he’s worth once the bridge deal is complete. If Kekalainen can get the Johansen camp to agree, a short-term deal will protect the Jackets’ in the short-term, but could cost them in the long run.
Hopefully for Jackets’ fans, the two sides can come to terms prior to the start of the season in October at the latest.