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Cooler heads prevail in contract mess between Blue Jackets, Ryan Johansen

Cooler heads finally prevailed in Columbus as the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen agreed to a new three-year contract for the restricted free agent center.

Kirk Irwin

After a very public and at times very uncomfortable contract negotiation, the Columbus Blue Jackets and center Ryan Johansen have finally come to their senses and hammered out a new just days before the start of the 2014-15 season.

Johansen, a restricted free agent coming off of a breakout 30-goal season, agreed to a three-year contract on Monday morning that will pay him $12 million over the duration of the contract, which comes out to a $4 million cap hit. As Sportsnet's Chris Johnston points out, the final year of his contract is worth $6 million in actual salary, which is an important point for when a qualifying offer has to be made when the deal expires.

For now, though, it's a pretty fair deal for the Blue Jackets and the type of "prove it" bridge contract that they were hoping for him to sign from the start. They wanted him to show that last season wasn't a fluke, but it could still end up costing them a lot more money in the long run if Johansen continues to develop into the No. 1 center he showed he can be last season.

And there is a very good chance that happens. Typically, players that have the type of success Johansen did last season at that age (and there are not many) go on to have very productive careers. Since the start of the 2000-01 season, only 14 players have topped at least 30 goals and 60 points in their age 21 season, and excepting Mike Comrie (and even he went on to have another 30-goal season), all of them continued on to be top-line players in the NHL.

But cooler heads had to eventually prevail in this situation for the start of the season. With Nathan Horton and Boone Jenner both sidelined entering the season, and a couple of Columbus' competitors within the division (specifically New Jersey, New York Islanders) getting better over the offseason, it was imperative that the Blue Jackets find a way to get their best player into the lineup for the start of the season. Johansen was the guy that was usually driving the team's productivity last year.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Johansen had a relatively slow start to his career offensively, recording just 33 points in 167 games over his first two years in the league. But last season, his numbers absolutely soared with 33 goals and 63 points, leading the team (by far) in both categories.

Johansen had a direct hand in 28 percent of the team's goals (either scoring it or setting up) -- only two other players on the team (Brandon Dubinsky and James Wisniewski) topped even 20 percent -- and he did so while usually playing against top-line competition.

When you start picking out the top reasons the team was able to make only its second trip to the playoffs in franchise history and might finally be starting to turn itself around after years of failure and disappointment, it all starts with Johansen and his development into a top-line center.

That's an element the Blue Jackets absolutely could not afford to start the season without, especially not after all the progress they made on and off the ice last season.