NHL rumors: Blue Jackets, Ryan Johansen still far apart on money

Ryan Johansen and the Blue Jackets are still working on a new deal. (USATSI)
Ryan Johansen and the Blue Jackets are still working on a new deal. (USATSI)

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With P.K. Subban locked up to his long-term extension, the next negotiation of intrigue that remains unresolved in the NHL exists between Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It seems the two sides have come to an agreement on term, which was a sticking point early on, but that appears to be resolved with Johansen’s camp willing to accept a two-year “bridge deal.” A final agreement is not close, however, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. It seems that the money is where the gap resides between the two sides.

More from Portzline:

The two sides were believed to be at least $3 million apart per season on a two-year deal at that point, and it doesn't appear that much progress has been made.

Asked this weekend if they were still far apart, one of the interested parties responded via text: "Hectares."

For those metric users, that's 10,000 square meters. For non-metric users, that's 2.47 acres. For those non-math types, that's a big ol' gap.

That doesn’t sound great for the Blue Jackets as they are closing in on the end of summer without their leading scorer from last season under a new deal, but this is an awfully complicated negotiation for a number of reasons.

Johansen, the former No. 3 overall pick, is coming off the best season of his brief career with 33 goals and 63 points in 82 games. That nearly doubled what Johansen had put up in his first two seasons combined with the club. It may be that one year of production in which Johnansen posted a likely-difficult-to-sustain shooting percentage of 13.9% that is duly causing some hesitation from the club to go long term.

That reported $3 million gap seems like it might be hard to close considering the positions of the two sides currently.

When a team looks at a bridge deal like the Blue Jackets are apparently trying to offer, it comes with some inherent risk. Columbus can just ask the Montreal Canadiens how much it costs when a player outperforms his contract over two seasons like Subban just did. The risk of a player being more expensive later, however, counteracts with the risk a team takes on when it gives a young player a long-term deal, especially if there's only one season of proven production to go off of. Should that player take a turn for the worse over the life of that long-term deal, the team is stuck in a position of overpaying for what they're getting in return.

The issue here between Johansen and the Jackets, however, is that Johansen isn’t looking for a bridge like Subban’s where the Habs defenseman made an annual average of $2.875 million. If there’s a reported gap of $3 million or more, Johansen’s demands don’t sound close to what Subban ended up getting for his bridge.

The Habs of course made good on that bridge deal by making Subban, who won a Norris Trophy during his two-year contract, one of the game’s best-paid players. His patience and loyalty to the organization was rewarded, but not before a rather uncomfortable couple of days that included a salary arbitration hearing.

Instead of looking at Subban however, which is relevant because of the most recent developments, perhaps Johansen is looking at his own teammate.

Sergei Bobrovsky signed a two-year bridge deal the summer after he won the Vezina Trophy in 2013. It was by far his best season as a pro, which is why Columbus undoubtedly wanted to be cautious when it came to signing a long-term contract.

That said, the Blue Jackets did hand Bobrovsky a two-year deal with an annual average of $5.625 million. That's an expensive bridge and if that’s the range Johansen is looking for, you can see where the Blue Jackets may stop short.

Bobrovsky’s first two seasons with Philadelphia before being traded to Columbus were up and down, but he had a strong showing as a rookie two years before winning the Vezina with a respectable .915 save percentage.

Johansen is understandably looking to be rewarded for his incredible 2013-14 season, but it's not just that one season. Johansen is also banking on continuing to improve and remain productive and wants to be paid according to what he'll contribute in the future as much as what he's already done.

At this point, Johansen’s best leverage is holding out of training camp and if necessary the season. As a restricted free agent, that’s really the only option to try to force the Blue Jackets into meeting his demands or at least get closer.

Columbus has cap space this year. According to CapGeek.com, there’s $14.1 million remaining underneath the ceiling for next season for the Blue Jackets with only Johansen left to sign. The team does have to be mindful of the expiring bridge for Bobrovsky as well. He will undoubtedly receive a healthy raise from the two-year contract he will complete after the 2014-15 season.

This negotiation between Johansen and the Blue Jackets could stretch deeper into the summer and possibly even sneak into the season, but it’s pretty easy to see where both sides are coming from in what will continue to be a tricky negotiation.

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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