UPDATE: Dubinsky may yet wear the C for the Jackets, but that announcement wasn't on today's agenda. "We'll hold a separate press conference when we name a captain" -- Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen
I have to say that Brandon Dubinsky made out pretty well with his new deal. The 28-year-old center agreed on Friday morning to a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets that is worth $35.1 million, which is crazy coin for a guy coming off a 50-point season.
Of course there's more to his game than secondary scoring. Dubinsky earned raves for his blanket coverage of Sidney Crosby during their first-round playoff meeting this spring (even if the recent news that Sid had a serious wrist problem tears a strip off the legend). He was tops on the Jackets with a 52.9% winning percentage on the draw during the regular season. He ranked first on the team in penalty minutes (98), second in hits (230), and was one of the Jackets' most vocal leaders. When the group needed to be held accountable, either in the room or in front of the fans, Dubinsky was the one most likely to step up. In fact, there's already speculation that the press conference that was called for 11 a.m. CDT today will be used to introduce him as the team's new captain as well as to talk about the new deal.
But does a relentless work ethic and good character really earn him the highest cap hit on the club? Hard to make sense of that decision but hey, good for Dubinsky. And good for his agent, Kurt Overhardt.
Overhardt made quick work of this deal with Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, which suggests the two men can find mutually acceptable turf. And that the Jackets don't mind dishing out wild contracts to his clients. That's worth noting because they've been at loggerheads for weeks over an extension for franchise center Ryan Johansen. The rhetoric's gotten a little heated at times, with the young center taking his beef to the press. "I've earned more than a two- or three-year deal with my play," he said of the team's short-term offer. "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."
That public rebuke won't be enough to sway Kekalainen. This is a man who stuck to his guns after Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy during the lockout-shortened 2013 season and convinced the goaltender to accept a two-year bridge deal.
That was a prudent business decision on the part of a team that didn't want to hitch its wagon to a possible one-year wonder. It makes sense for the Jackets to take the same tack with Johansen. The 21-year-old had a breakout year (33-30-63) and has the size and tools to be a dominant No. 1 center, but the club's brass wants to see a pattern of growth before committing long-term.
Still, they can't risk alienating the player at the center of their plans. There's no rule that says a team's best player has to be its best paid, but Johansen's impact on the team's short-term aspirations shouldn't be short-changed.
Overhardt might not get the long-term deal he wants for Johansen, but judging by the Dubinsky deal, he knows how to make a convincing case for value. And with that deal amicably settled, it shouldn't be long before the team has another press conference to announce.