A Look Inside the RFA Situation of Ryan Johansen

Ryan Johansen’s contract situation is very interesting.  Johansen had a breakthrough season last year for the Columbus Blue Jackets to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, almost knocking off the highly potent Pittsburgh Penguins.  He led the team with 33 goals and 63 points.  The goal total put him 12th in the league alongside premiere goal scorers like Patrick Sharp, Jamie Benn, and Chris Kunitz.

The Blue Jackets are poised to make another postseason run and win their first ever playoff series this year.  The team is young, talented, and hungry, with Nathan Horton healthy to start the year, Cam Atkinson coming off of a career season, and Sergei Bobrovsky looking to rebound back to his Vezina Trophy winning form from a few years ago.  The only problem: top center Ryan Johansen currently has no contract as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA).

RFA’s have limited negotiation rights as they’re bound to their team and can’t use contracts offered by other teams as leverage in contract negotiations.  But in the past few years, different RFA’s (namely Ryan O’Reilly this season, PK Subban a few years ago just to name a few) have begun a movement trying to demand more leverage by holding out and at times, stopping negotiations all together.

It is reported that the two sides have agreed on a two year deal.  Johansen’s side wants $7M/year, arguing that he’s a premiere top center and should be paid like one. The Blue Jackets on the other hand, want a cap friendly deal around $4M/year and claim Johansen has had one good season out of a three year rookie contract.

The Blue Jackets are currently sitting around $14M under the salary cap with no key players left to sign meaning they have the money to pay Johansen.  Next season they have their work cut out for them as Nick Foligno and Brian Gibbons are set to be Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) alongside RFAs-to-be Sergei Bobrovsky and Cam Atkinson.  This shouldn’t be a concern as they have less than $40M total spent so far on the 2015-2016 season when the salary cap should be increasing to $71-73M.

If the Blue Jackets and Johansen do agree on a two year contract, it’ll likely be in the $5-6M range making both sides happy.  It is also very possible that they could throw the two year deal out the window and go for a longer deal at slightly more money than the two year deal.  This approach is very risky if Johansen falls off or gets injured, but would pay off in the last few years if he does prove to be an elite center.  This type of deal would have saved the Montreal Canadiens a lot of money had they gone this route with Subban instead of a two year bridge contract then his huge contract this past summer.

I predict the Blue Jackets will sign Ryan Johansen to a 5-6 year deal valued in the $6.5M range.  Time will tell whether or not this deal gets done before the start of training camp on September 18th.

Update 1: Columbus GM John Davidson has come out and told the media they have offered Johansen deals worth $6M over 2years, $32M over 6 years, and $46M over 8 years that have all been declined.

Update 2: The two sides have reportedly broke negotiations and Johansen has flown back to Vancouver for now.

Update 3: The sides are back talking again, working on a two year bridge deal.  Previously, Johansen wanted $9.4M over that span while the Blue Jackets offered $6M.  It’s likely they’ll meet somewhere in the middle and take time off to cool off before on a longer extension in a few years.

Update 4: Ryan Johansen has agreed to and signed a 3 year, $12M contract. Fair deal on both sides, full blog coming later on the deal.

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