Throughout the arduous, sometimes ugly negotiations between the Columbus Blue Jackets and star center Ryan Johansen, the team's fans could console themselves with the understanding that this was all just business.
There's no comfort in that pipe anymore.
The Jackets have had enough of the process. More to the point, they've had enough of Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt. And it's gotten personal.
First, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen issued an ultimatum stating that a deal had to be in place at the start of camp ... or else. Then the team made public the line combinations it will use if Johansen doesn't sign.
But negotiations really went off the cliff during the past 24 hours. And Blue Jackets president John Davidson had both hands firmly on the wheel.
One day after accusing agent Overhardt of "extortion," Davidson fire-bombed the relationship by revealing the three offers the team had put on the table for the 21-year-old RFA to consider:
CBJ media day off to rousing start. JD comes right out and announces what the team has offered Johansen: $6M/2yrs, $32M/6 yrs, $46M/8. Wow.— Michael Arace (@MichaelArace1) September 17, 2014
"When you’re talking about contracts close to $50 million, I think our group has been very fair and it’s nowhere near what they want,” Davidson added. “We’ve been told if we don’t give them what they want, they’ll be leaving town.”
Whether those numbers are fair or not doesn't really matter. What does matter is that their release was driven by a desire to embarrass Johansen and his agent and make them look greedy and out of touch.
What's the upside to that, exactly? If the Blue Jackets hadn't already claimed the high ground in the public relations battle, Johansen and Overhardt certainly can now. The greed of one side/cheapness of the other is the undercurrent of any negotiation and the average fan is sure to look at those offers and think that's a lot of money for a player with one decent season on his resume.
But will it do anything to expedite a process that's become bogged down despite one side having all the leverage? Or will it lead Johansen's camp to dig in its heels or grab its own pound of flesh?
Ultimately it doesn't matter because this isn't just about Johansen, who will, at some point, sign a very lucrative contract with the club and profess no hurt feelings. No, this is about setting the bar for future relationships. By allowing his frustration to get the best of him, Davidson has sent a message to all current and potential Jackets: If I don't like the way things are going, I'm happy to play the shame card.
Just how many players do you think want to face that possibility?
Give Davidson credit, though. Since he joined the organization in 2012, Columbus has slowly but surely established itself as a franchise with a future, a place players want to be. But this dysfunctional tantrum is on him. And the Jackets don't look quite as shiny anymore.