The contentious contract talks between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen have taken a decidedly ugly turn. The situation is overshadowing the start of training camp, threatening to derail the club's efforts to build upon the promise of last season.
Jackets team president John Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen claim the Johansen camp rejected offers of $6 million over two years ($3-million annually), $32 million over six years ($5.33-million annually) and $46 million over eight ($5.75 million). Davidson went so far as to accuse Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, of “extortion.”
Overhardt's only response was to call for a resumption of negotiations. TSN reports he's tabled another two-year contract offer, but Darren Dreger claims it apparently wasn't well received. Johansen departed Columbus prior to the start of training camp and returned home to Vancouver, while the Jackets prepare for training camp and pre-season without him.
Given the apparent unwillingness of either side to budge, this standoff could stretch into the regular season. Because Johansen's coming off an entry-level deal with no arbitration, his only leverage is to wait for either the Jackets to capitulate or he receives an offer sheet the Jackets will be forced to match.
An offer sheet, however, seems unlikely at this stage. NHL clubs currently have limited cap space to pay what Johansen is seeking, a rumoured $7 million annually). Twenty-one teams have less than $7 million in cap space. Those with more either have limited roster space or are under self-imposed caps well below the league limit of $69 million.
Hanging over these tense negotiations is the Dec. 1 deadline for all restricted free agents to be signed for this season. If Johansen remains unsigned by that date, he'll be ineligible to play for the remainder of the season. This situation could reach the point where each side hopes the other blinks before that deadline.
This isn't the first time an Overhardt client staged a contract holdout. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recalls the most recent saw center Kyle Turris engaged in a standoff three years ago with the Arizona Coyotes. The impasse dragged on until late-November, 2011, when Turris inked a two-year, $2.8-million deal. Weeks later, he was traded to the Ottawa Senators.
The Blue Jackets aren't expected to trade the promising Johansen. He is expected to play an important role in their efforts to build a Stanley Cup contender. Though they're unwilling to overpay for Johansen's services, trading him isn't an option.
METHOT AND SENS IN A CONTRACT CLASH?
Speaking of contentious contract negotiations, talks appear to be breaking down between the Ottawa Senators and defenseman Marc Methot, who's eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
On Tuesday, the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan reported Methot's agent, Larry Kelly, was taken aback by GM Bryan Murray telling TSN's Bob McKenzie the two sides weren't close to a deal. Murray also told McKenzie he would trade Methot rather than risk losing him to free agency in July.
Kelly told Brennan the two sides were apart by $300,000 annually, with his side pitching $5 million per season (over five years) while the Senators countered with $4.7 million. Methot said he wasn't really comfortable management wants to do anything on a new deal.
The following day, however, Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion denied the two sides were as close to a deal as Kelly claims. Dorion claimed he was “flabbergasted,” adding the information in the Brennan column “is totally false.”
This situation creates the possibility Methot could be dealt before the season begins if a deal isn't reached. Brennan noted the Senators have seven defensemen under one-way contracts, while promising Cody Ceci has proven he can play at the NHL level. One of them could be dealt, leading Brennan to suggest Methot could fetch the best return from a contending team.
Methot has attempted to defuse the situation, telling Brennan's colleague Bruce Garrioch he wants to remain a Senator. Given the recent testy exchange between his agent and Dorion, however, the blueliner might not have any say in the matter.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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