It’s difficult to look at Jaden Schwartz’s two-year, $4.7 million “bridge deal” with the St. Louis Blues as anything but a huge blow to Ryan Johansen’s leverage with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline indicates that Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt doesn’t exactly see it that way.
You might be able to boil the argument down to context vs. comparable contracts.
Johansen and Schwartz share considerable parallels; they have similar first-round pedigrees, enormous leaps in production in 2013-14 and are about the same age.
Still, the St. Louis Blues were in a very tight cap situation and boasted players who currently tower over Schwartz who aren’t making a ton of money. Schwartz can’t leverage his team the same way when guys like David Backes ($4.5 million cap hit) and T.J. Oshie ($4.175 million) aren’t exactly breaking the bank, right?
As Overhardt likely notes, Johansen could be considerably more crucial to Columbus’ success than Schwartz may be to St. Louis, even if their production was pretty similar last season.
Even beyond that, Portzline presents an interesting argument that the Blue Jackets and Johansen/his reps are engaged in a scuffle that both sides believe could have a huge impact on future contracts in the NHL:
Johansen may see himself as part of this fight on behalf of the NHLPA, too. He’d like a bigger payday, of course, but there’s also a responsibility that comes with being one of the league’s top, young players in the league. Sergei Bobrovsky and Cam Atkinson are RFAs next summer. Boone Jenner will be one in two seasons. And those are just Johansen’s teammates.
And so the fight continues … not just Blue Jackets v. Overhardt, but Blue Jackets/NHL v. Overhardt/NHLPA.
Most – maybe even Overhardt in a private moment – would admit that the Schwartz deal does hurt the 22-year-old center’s already-shaky leverage as an RFA, but it remains to be seen if it thaws out these chilly proceedings in a meaningful way.
At least it can’t get much worse, though, right?