Johansen decision looms for Columbus
April, 28, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsRyan Johansen (No. 19) is a young player around whom the Blue Jackets should build.It was an historic campaign for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their first playoff win. Their first playoff win at home. The first year Columbus fans could legitimately feel confident that the pieces were in place from top to bottom for sustained success.
The challenge now is not slipping backward like they did last time they made the postseason (four seasons elapsed since their previous appearance). To make sure that doesn’t happen, here’s a look at a few things that should happen this summer.
1. Lock up Ryan Johansen
The roster is set up pretty well heading into next season, with one major focus for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen: Signing his franchise centerman.
Johansen had a breakout season in 2013-14, with 33 goals and 30 assists, and should cash in. It’ll be interesting to see how Kekalainen handles this, since Johansen is a restricted free agent. After Sergei Bobrovsky's breakout season last year, Kekalainen wisely kept the term short (a two-year deal) since the sample size for the young goalie wasn’t large.
He might prefer to do the same thing for Johansen, with the two-year deal worth $3 million per season that Derek Stepan signed a starting point for a bridge contract. Kekalainen and John Davidson come from a St. Louis Blues organization that believes in paying for production rather than on potential, giving most of their young players short-term deals in their second contract.
But after the season he had, you couldn’t blame the Blue Jackets for seeing what it might cost to get a long-term deal done.