Ryan Johansen was one of the NHL’s breakout stars this past season, leading the Columbus Blue Jackets with 33 goals and 63 points. He picked a great time to put up those numbers as he’s scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1.
Last week it was reported that negotiations for an extension were underway; and while Johansen’s rights are under control by the Blue Jackets due to his RFA status, a team with a bit of cap space could toss an offer sheet his way.
Should Johansen sign an offer sheet, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he isn’t worried.
"Our ownership is strong, and as I said before, we would match any offer he could possibly sign. If somebody wants to waste their time and effort on that, that's fine for them. We'd just match it and keep the player.”
Columbus has just over $22 million under the cap ceiling, according to CapGeek. They have 10 forwards (including the likely-to-be-gone R.J. Umberger), four defensemen and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky under contract through at least next season. That’s plenty of room for make some upgrades upfront, fill out the blue line, bring in a backup netminder and give Johansen a a nice raise.
Back in March, Jackets Cannon laid out some comparables for Johansen’s next deal while he had a scoring rate of 0.75 points per game. That number ended up at 0.77 by the end of the season.
So what is Kekalainen’s plan? Does he go long-term with his budding 21-year old star or does he take a similar approach to Bobrovsky, who signed a two-year, $10 million extension days after winning the Vezina Trophy. And would Johansen be open to a bridge contract, therefore setting himself up for a big pay day in a couple years?
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