Last month, after the Columbus Blue Jackets offered restricted free agent Ryan Johansen a two-year bridge contract, the 21-year old forward called it a “slap in the face.” He wanted a longer-term deal — four years or more — but the team was in the mood for something along the lines of a two- or three-year term.
Three weeks later, it appears a bit of progress has been made. According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, sources have told him that Johansen’s camp approached the Blue Jackets with a two-year offer after originally wanting a four-year pact.
Baby steps are still steps and if both sides can agree to a bridge, the next move is obviously determining Johansen’s worth, which could take another couple weeks.
Speaking with team broadcast Jeff Rimer in an interview on their website Friday, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson explained the team’s position in the negotiations and the reason why they prefer the bridge for Johansen.
“We’re a team that feels that if we have players that earn it, we will certainly respond with appropriate contracts. We’re in a position here where we’re working with their camp trying to figure out what exactly is the right thing to do.
We like Ryan Johansen, obviously. Who wouldn’t? But we’ve got to make sure; we have to be a responsible club regarding long-term contracts. And there’s something called a “bridge,” where when you come out of entry-level your first three years you as team, following the Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, the rules that are in place, you can sign a player to a bridge so we can make sure. And if Ryan keeps the upward trend, he’s going to have a long, very fruitful career. But we have to make sure we protect ourselves.”
Johansen was one of the NHL’s biggest breakout stars last season leading the Blue Jackets in goals (33) and points (63). Settling on a two-year bridge contract would give Columbus good reason to look forward to the next couple years after seeing what that type of deal did for the likes of P.K. Subban and Matt Duchene. Both ended up cashing in by the end of that second year.
The Blue Jackets are improving and are now a franchise no longer expected to wallow at the bottom of their division. After taking a big step forward last season, Columbus will find themselves a popular pick in Eastern Conference playoff prognostications this fall. Johansen is going to play a big part of the continued rise, and in two years time, if, as Davidson mentioned, his career continues on that “upward trend” it appears it’s going, he’s going to cash in just like Subban and Duchene did.
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