The Columbus Blue Jackets are currently engaged in one of the biggest staring contests of the NHL offseason with restricted free agent forward Ryan Johansen. If any other NHL club thinks they can swoop in and make an offer sheet for the 21-year old winger who tallied 33 goals last season, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen has a simple message: Don’t bother.
Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch he wasn’t worried about the prospect of another NHL team making an offer to the former fourth overall draft pick.
“If he signs an offer sheet, he signs an offer sheet,” Kekalainen said. “Our ownership is strong, and I said before, we would match any offer he could possibly sign. If somebody wants to waste their time and effort on that, that’s fine for them. We’d just match it and keep the player.”
Portzline notes that Blue Jackets have over $18 million in cap space, meaning even a huge offer to the young forward could easily fit under the cap for Columbus. There’s also the issue of compensation. Since Johansen is a restricted free agent, an offering team would have to give up draft picks in addition to a big contract. The compensation is tied to contract value per year, and is charted as seen below:
$1,110,249 or below No draft picks
$1,110,250-$1,682,194 Third round
$1,682,195-$3,364,391 Second round
$3,364,392-$5,046,585 First, third rounds
$5,046,586-$6,728,781 First, second, third rounds
$6,728,782-$8,410,976 Two first, one second, one third round
Over $8,410,976 Four first rounds
So if a team wants to try to highball the Blue Jackets with an offer north of $8.4 million, it will cost them four draft picks. That might be too steep of a price for anyone.
It’s hard to blame the Blue Jackets for taking their time in negotiations with Johansen. He will be a key cog to any resurgence the Blue Jackets see in the next couple years. They clearly have the leverage in negotiations, and will ultimately get the contract they want while Johansen remains a restricted free agent. If anyone else wants to get involved, they’ll have to think long and hard about what kind of contract Kekalainen wouldn’t match. For now anyways, it appears there is no such thing.