For the second consecutive summer, the Columbus Blue Jackets are in a situation where they are faced with retaining a key restricted free agent. A year ago, it was Sergei Bobrovsky, who eventually agreed to a lucrative two-year bridge deal to remain with the team with which he has broken out as one of the league’s top goaltenders. This summer, they are facing the same situation with another premium talent in forward Ryan Johansen.
Johansen is a restricted free agent, and while he has yet to succumb to the threat of an offer sheet, that threat certainly looms large with the calendar readying to turn to September. A rising talent in this league, Johansen represents a player for the Jackets to build around, which is something they’ve really lacked since trading Rick Nash, even with their recent success in building a contending club. Johansen is a potential franchise player that you don’t let slip through your fingers, which is exactly what Columbus is at risk of doing.
Now, the Blue Jackets aren’t going to attempt to go out and trade Ryan Johansen. It makes no sense for them to deal him, as you’re not going to get fair value in return for him. Instead, the dangerous game they’re playing with Johansen involves that threat of an offer sheet. There are teams out there looking for a potential top six center coming off of a career year that have the money to throw at him. Perhaps a team like the Nashville Predators?
Johansen notched 63 points in appearing in all 82 tilts for the Blue Jackets last season, with a split between 33 goals and 30 assists, along with a plus-3 for the year. Twenty of those points came with the man advantage. The sizable forward held his own physically and was strong in the faceoff circle, claiming victory in over 52 percent of the draws he took. He’s not a particularly strong defensive forward, but still registered an impressive 39 takeaways last year.
Recent reports have come out that the two sides are as far apart as ever on a new contract. It remains to be seen what each side is looking at as far as a term, but what we do know based off of insider reports is that the two sides sit about $3 million apart. There’s still time to get a deal done before camp, and while there’s no reason to be really concerned until that point, the threat of an offer sheet does exist, even if the likelihood of a trade is at exactly zero percent.
What seems most likely, as is typical of situations like this, is that the two sides come together on some sort of bridge deal to keep Johansen in Columbus for at least two or three years. Once he officially cements himself as the no. 1 center for this team, then they can exam a longer term contract. Until a deal actually comes together, though, stay tuned.