The Columbus Blue Jackets need to sign restricted free agent center Ryan Johansen to a new contract before Tuesday or a rival team will be able to extend him an offer sheet, but it appears they won’t come to terms by that date.
Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported Monday that the sides haven’t been able to bridge the gap between them.
“We’re not even close,” Johansen said. “They say ‘We want to sign you to a ‘bridge’ deal.’ We say ‘We don’t want to do a ‘bridge,’ and that’s the end of it.”
“I’ve earned more than a two- or three-year deal with my play,” Johansen said. “It seems a little disrespectful, to be honest. I want to play in Columbus, and I want to be a Blue Jacket, but I want to get this done. It seems like a slap in the face.”
Teams do their best to sign players to “bridge contracts” before offering them huge-money extensions. This gives general managers two or three more years to determine if a player is worth superstar money. It sounds like the best option for a team — and it usually is — but this strategy also has the potential to be even more costly down the road.
For example, the Montreal Canadiens refused to give defenseman P.K. Subban a long-term deal two years ago as a restricted free agent and ultimately signed him to a two-year bridge contract. After two dominant seasons, including a Norris Trophy in 2013, Subban is an RFA again this summer and could become the highest-paid D-man in the NHL. If the Canadiens had signed Subban long-term two years ago, they might have saved millions of dollars in salary cap space.
Johansen — the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft — is an excellent player. He led the Blue Jackets with 33 goals last season and is close to being a legitimate No. 1 center. He’ll land top-line money in the near future, and it would be smarter for Columbus to give it to him now instead of waiting. In two years, he could be an $8 million per season type of player, especially when you consider the salary cap is expected to rise significantly over the next decade because of increased NHL revenue and the new television rights deal with Rogers Sportsnet.
In regard to the threat of an offer sheet, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said earlier this month that the team would match any offer sheet.
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