I’ve held off on writing a piece about the Ryan Johansen Contract Debacle of 2014 for a lot of reasons. Firstly, because I had no new information. There was no new information. The entirety of the post would simply have been the headline: “Nothing Is Happening In The Ryan Johansen Contact Debacle of 2014.”
But there has, at last, been news.
Yesterday morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they had agreed to terms with Johansen for a three-year, $12-million contract. The Blue Jackets will pay Johansen $3 million in the first two years, and $6 million in 2016-2017. Both parties expressed relief that the protracted negotiations are over; General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen told NHL.com that he, “talked to [Johansen] already and basically told him, ‘Get your butt over here and let’s get to work.’ … I wish this all could have been avoided but it was something necessary for us to go through to get the deal done. Now it’s done and let’s move forward.”
For his part, Johansen also professed to be looking forward to the season. “At the end of the day, that’s what it is: I’m playing,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s a short-term deal. I’ll be the best player I can be for the next three years, and hopefully I can stay here long-term.”
The Ryan Johansen Contract Debacle of 2014 has been something of a rollercoaster from start to finish. Though Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets went into negotiations assuring fans and media alike that their priority was getting Johansen signed—and matching any offer sheet another team may have considered putting on the table—it quickly became clear that they’d be sitting at that negotiation table for quite some time.
According to the club, their first offer was a two-year bridge deal worth $6 million; the counter-offer from Johansen’s camp, including agent Kevin Overhardt, was a request for $13 million over the same period. Blue Jackets president John Davidson also publicly announced other offers they’d put on the table: $32 million over six years and $46 million over eight.
If Johansen’s ultimate goal was a long-term deal, than taking his current contract may have in fact been the best choice for him. The contract will leave him with one year left as a restricted free agent, and the final year’s $6 million salary will certainly lay some bricks on the road to a bigger payout. Assuming Johansen has more seasons like last year, when he helped lead the Blue Jackets to their best-ever regular season record with 33 goals and 30 assists in all 82 games, he’s destined for a comfortable payout come the 2017-2018 season.
Back in September, Kekalainen acknowledged that a bridge deal now might lead to a larger contract later; he told NHL.com that while he acknowledged Johansen’s enormous potential, he wasn’t willing to pay for it until it was fully realized.
“We’re not there yet, after one year, where we’re willing to invest franchise-type money into his future,” he said. “Do it once or twice more. Make us pay. Go ahead and make us pay. We have no problem paying the dollars when it’s earned, but the key word there is ‘earned.'”
So now there are three years on the table for Johansen to live up to that promise. With his linemates both currently sidelined (Jenner with a broken hand, Horton a bad back), he’ll be tossed into a team he hasn’t practiced with and linemates that are unfamiliar. As with all players after a negotiation as prolonged and ugly as this one, Johansen will have to come out of the gate with his best skate forward to prove that he’s worth every dollar.
“Joey makes our team better,” head coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s just about playing hockey.”