At the end of the day, will the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen be able to bury the public mess that the restricted free agent’s contract negotiations have become? Perhaps, but for now, the war of words between the Blue Jackets and agent Kurt Overhardt seems to be only heating up.
Blue Jackets president John Davidson attacked Johansen’s camp for making “nonsensical” demands that he likened to “extortion” and then put his cards on the table by revealing the offers the Blue Jackets have made to the 22-year-old forward, including an eight-year, $46 million contract.
Overhardt has fired back at Davidson’s disclosure of the offers Johansen turned down as “unprofessional.”
“I don’t ever talk about numbers with the media,” Overhardt said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “If you look back at the 25 years I’ve been representing players, I never make a public forum out of numbers.”
He also called Davidson’s decision to publicly criticize him as “unfortunate” before adding, “but I was raised to have integrity in what I do, by the people who raised me. It’s unfortunate that they’ve taken this course, but we’re just going to ignore it and try to work in good faith to get a deal done.”
For his part, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen defended the team’s revelations as necessary. His belief is that the public wouldn’t take the claims that the Blue Jackets were doing everything they could to sign Johansen seriously unless they offered hard numbers to back it up.
This has all led to a situation where it might be hard for Blue Jackets’ fans to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As Michael Arace wrote:
It is official. This thing is ugly, and it is less likely to end well for anybody.
The Blue Jackets are without their No. 1 center, a budding star. Can they make up some of his production? Sure. Are they a better team? No.
Season-ticket holders who have made hefty deposits are about to be treated to a lesser product. You’re welcome.
Although both sides deny it, it has become clear that the Jackets and Overhardt have staked out intractable positions, and the prospect of a deal being struck before the season opener, on Oct. 9 at Buffalo, is dim. Johansen, a sensitive young man, has to feel slighted and alienated. The Jackets have put his agent through a public-relations grinder over the past 48 hours.
The only silver lining is that while negotiations getting this ugly is far from the norm, it’s not without precedent either. For example, Rangers GM Glen Sather fired some public shots at the agent of then RFA Derek Stepan in 2013, saying, “It’s unfortunate that Derek has decided to listen to his agent. I don’t think Derek’s going to let this linger too long. I don’t think he’s big enough of a fool.”
If Johansen ends up missing the start of the season, that also wouldn’t be unheard of. Jamie Benn, P.K. Subban, and Ryan O’Reilly are some recent examples of the players Johansen would be following in the footsteps of. All three of them remain on their original teams despite some particularly difficult patches along the way in the cases of Subban and O’Reilly.
So while the situation is far from ideal, it’s not necessarily fatal to the Blue Jackets’ long-term relationship with a man they had hoped to build their franchise around.