The feud between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen has reached its boiling point.
On Monday, Blue Jackets president John Davidson absolutely eviscerated Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, in a rant for the ages captured by both the Columbus Dispatch and The Hockey News. We’ve cherry picked some of the best quotes:
“When you see numbers that are thrown at us, we shouldn’t even respond. That’s how bad it is. It’s embarrassing.”
“The numbers they come back with…are so one-sided it’s nonsensical. It’s extortion is what it is. I don’t make this stuff up. I’ve been in this league doing this for a long time now and this one here, it’s baffling is what it is. This one’s baffling. Baffling.”
“They have no leverage and they’re trying to take us to the woodshed.”
“Just because a guy has one good year, are you supposed to all of a sudden hand him the keys to city hall? We’re not trying to low-ball a guy. We don’t low-ball anybody.”
“If we ever caved to what (Overhardt) is demanding, we’ll all get fired. And I take it personal. I don’t understand it. I take it very personal. What’s he trying to do, get us fired? What’s he trying to do? I don’t understand what he’s trying to do.”
For those not in the loop, a quick overview: Following a breakout 33-goal campaign, Johansen, a RFA coming off his entry-level deal, is using Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane as his comparables and gunning for around $6.5 million per season on a new contract — roughly $3 million more than Columbus is willing to spend. The two sides have held firm throughout the entire summer with virtually zero movement and now, with training camp set to get underway on Thursday, it looks like the Jackets will open without their leading scorer in the fold.
And, clearly, a lot of this has to do with Overhardt.
That Davidson put the longtime agent in the cross-hairs is a big development. It’s always been understood Overhardt plays hardball — he has a long history of players holding out, from Marty Turco to Kyle Turris — but until now, things between Columbus and Overhardt have been civil, or at least not played out publicly.
Well, civility’s out the window.
Davidson’s making a bold play here, likely banking on his standing and reputation in NHL circles. The guy has literally been around forever — 40 years as a player, broadcaster and executive — so when he says he’s never seen anything like this, well, it carries some weight. He’s also got a point with regards to Columbus not low-balling people: Brandon Dubinsky scored a lucrative six-year, $35 million extension this summer; Sergei Bobrovsky got $11.25 million over two years following his Vezina win.
Regardless of what Davidson says, though, all signs point to him having a fight on his hands. Johansen and Overhardt are dug in and ready to battle, and they’ve got the leverage of halting Columbus’ momentum — coming off the first playoff victories in franchise history — at their disposal.