This promises to be a big summer for the Blue Jackets and young star Ryan Johansen, but Jarmo Kekalainen expects it to go smoothly.
“I’m not worried about getting him signed,” the Jackets GM said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “I’m convinced we will. He’s a big part of our future.”
Johansen, 21, just wrapped the final year of his entry-level deal — and wrapped it in style. He enjoyed a breakout campaign and finished 11th in the NHL in goals, with 33, leading Columbus to its second-ever postseason appearance and first playoff wins in franchise history.
The sticking point, though, is that Johansen’s now a restricted free agent. As we’ve seen in the past with the likes of Derek Stepan, Nazem Kadri, Marcus Johansson and countless others, that first RFA contract coming out of an ELC can be a tricky one to negotiate — and there’s always the looming specter of an offer sheet to consider, too.
The Blue Jackets would prefer a three-year contract, one that would expire when Johansen can only become a restricted free agent. But there is risk in waiting too long to sign a deal this summer.
As a restricted free agent, Johansen could sign an offer sheet with any NHL team if he’s not signed by July 1. The Blue Jackets could match the offer and keep Johansen, but it’s an expensive and risky way of doing business.
And Johansen — much like Bobrovsky last summer — seems a ripe candidate for an offer sheet, given his age, skill and position.
There’s no denying Johansen would be a hot commodity for a number of NHL clubs. The big-bodied center (6-foot-3, 223 pounds) had 63 points in 82 games this year and showed no signs of wilting in his first postseason appearance, scoring six points in six games against the Penguins.
That said, offer sheets are rare — just three have been signed in the last four years — and rarely work for the club looking to acquire the player; often times, the offer sheet does nothing more than cause a rift between general managers.