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Blue Jackets running huge risk with Ryan Johansen negotiations

It may be time for the Columbus Blue Jackets to see things the 22-year-old forward's way.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Johansen still doesn't have a new contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets and it doesn't look like that stalemate will be broken soon, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

The Blue Jackets and Johansen, a restricted free agent, are reportedly $2-$3 million apart in negotiations.

Johansen is coming off a breakout season in 2013-14 in which he scored 33 goals and led the team with 63 points. After three seasons in Columbus in which the team meticulously managed his development, Johansen believes he's arrived for good. That's where he and the team differ.

When negotiations began over the summer, it was reported Johansen was seeking a long-term deal worth in the neighborhood of $6-$7 million per year. To say the Blue Jackets weren't interested in that road would be an understatement. Instead, the team is hoping to sign him to a "bridge" contract with a shorter term and less money.

Back on Sept. 10, Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reported the team offered Johansen $3.5 million per year but he and his agent, Kurt Overhardt, are seeking $6.5 million.

The position the Blue Jackets are putting themselves into here is a dangerous one.

Think of recent situations that have played out like this. The Montreal Canadiens decided to go with a two-year bridge deal with P.K. Subban coming out of the lockout in 2013 in order to see if he was the real deal. He then went on to win the Norris Trophy that season and cashed in with an eight-year, $72 million deal this summer.

It may sound risky signing a 22-year-old like Johansen to a long-term, big-money deal but take a look at where Johansen is at.

He was the top scorer on the team last season by 12 points over defenseman James Wisniewski. He was 13 points better than the next best forward, Brandon Dubinsky. He was 23 points better than Cam Atkinson, who was fourth on the team, and he's younger than all of them.

If you want to look at Johansen's shot percentage (13.9 percent) and say he's due to regress, that's probably fair. But for a player at his age who produced that much in his first honest shot at being an offensive star, rather than a bottom-six forward, the right way to err on the side of caution would be to get the long-term deal done now.

After all, if he continues where he left off last season and becomes a 40-goal scorer, it'll be the Blue Jackets begging to sign him at $6.5 million per year in hopes he doesn't ask for the moon.