The Columbus Blue Jackets took a major step forward last season, and at the forefront of their improvement was Ryan Johansen, a 21-year-old forward who was 11th in the league with 33 goals. But per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Johansen, a restricted free agent, isn't close to a new deal with the Blue Jackets. From Portzline:
Contract negotiations between the Blue Jackets and their top offensive player are going nowhere, even after a meeting this weekend in Philadelphia between Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, and assistant general manager Bill Zito.
The road block to further negotiations appears to be the term.
"We're not even close," Johansen told The Dispatch. "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."
The Blue Jackets want to sign Johansen to a two- or three-year contract, which would expire when he still was a restricted free agent.
Bridge contracts have become trendy across the league, with teams giving a shorter term, middle-of-the-road deal to younger, budding players. The Sharks gave Logan Couture a two-year, $5.75 million contract back in 2012 before giving him five years, $30 million when that contract ended. The Rangers gave Derek Stepan a two-year, $6.15 million deal last summer.
But in Johansen's eye, per Portzline, his production puts him ahead of that bridge curve, and wants a longer term and to become an unrestricted free agent when that deal expires.
"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."
The Blue Jackets are nearly $20 million under the cap, and Johansen can begin negotiating with other teams when free agency begins on Tuesday.