At the Blue Jacket’s NHL media day today, President of Hockey Operations John Davidson announced three contracts that were offered to Kurt Overhardt, and by proxy, Ryan Johansen. I normally don't like to spend too much time debating a player's worth and translating it into salary. However, now that some numbers have been disclosed, it's fair to examine those numbers. My opinions don't consider the elasticity of cap - because like quantum mechanic experiments that involve Austrian cats, I cannot tell if the cap will increase or decrease beyond this season. Let’s look at the numbers as they stand today and play devil’s advocate:
8 years, $46 million dollars
- I can understand why an agent would not jump all over this contract, especially for a 21 year-old player. The problem with this offer is the term. If you think (for better or worse) that your client can be a Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, or Adam Oates than this contract is sucker money and you scoff at the length. If you think the best your client can do is 70 points a year on any team, you leap all over this deal and tell your client to be smart with his money. This is still a generous deal coming from a John Davidson led hockey team, but not that awesome if you look at from all the angles. Kurt Overhardt is not one of those "I'm just happy to be here" kinda guys. If you look at this contract solely from a 'one 30-goal season' perspective, this seems like a no-brainer.
6 years, $32 million dollars
- This is the contract offer I like the most of those that were disclosed. It is probably the most ‘fair’ when you look at salary and term. Is it perfect? No. Johansen would be 27 years-old turning 28 at the end of this deal and the Jackets get some cap space to work with during the term if Johansen pumps out 75 point seasons in his sleep. Win-Win for both considering the Blue Jackets aren't an ATM machine for it's ownership group. Worth noting in this scenario is the Jackets getting a contract that can still be moved and Johansen enjoys relative anonymity outside of the docile Columbus Hockey Media if things go south.
2 years, $6 million dollars.
- This had better be the first contract offered. If this was offered at any
point after either the previously mentioned contracts, I’d
call this a slap in the face too. If
you’re a GM and are going to offer a player $6 million a year in longer term
contracts, you’ve probably painted yourself into a corner on shorter term
contracts. Any rational person would
expect $6 million a year for 2 years if their employer was already willing to
offer nearly $6 million for
6 or8 years. I can totally see why the two sides are “3 million dollars apart” on annual salary for a two or three year contract if this wasn’t the first contract offered.
Ryan Johansen has had one good year, one Arniel-fueled dumpster fire year, and one weird lockout shortened season. Personally, I think he’s capable of regularly putting together 70 and 80 point seasons with the right compliment of players. Notwithstanding is Johansen's 100% dedication to being an everyday NHL player. I think it’s reasonable as a fan and NHL GM to say the sample size of Ryan Johansen’s career is too small to get into the $7-8 million dollar a year range. The Blue Jackets have introduced $6 million per year into the conversation and it will be hard to come off that number. Still, considering how the measureable body of work projects future contracts, nearly $6 million a year is generous. I still stick to my original thought that $4.5 million per year on a 2 or 3 year bridge deal would have been the right way to go. But JD and Jarmo may have unintentionally taken that possibility off of the table.
Jarmo and JD have made it no secret they want to see a motivated Johansen on the ice next few years. Without understanding the order in which these contracts were offered, Overhardt wouldn’t be out-of-bounds asking for $6 million for two or three years. JD/Jarmo better be willing to consider a short term deal at that rate if they were willing to offer it over a longer term. Looking at what the CBJ offered Johansen at this point; it’s only extortion if Overhardt asked for $8 million per year. It’s not extortion if an agent asks for $6MM a year for three years after you, as an organization, were willing to offer almost $6 million per year for 6 years.
To me, the two or three year bridge deal still makes the most sense protecting the best interests of both parties. If Johansen is the real deal, HE GETS PAID after this contract is up AND has arbitration to fall back on. With a two year deal, the Jackets have minimal financial exposure if last season turns out to be as good as it gets for Johansen. Kevin Overhardt’s pride is probably why this thing is dragging on into camp. JD/Jarmo’s pride is likely why we won’t see a rate below $5 million per year.
My recommendation: everyone agree to a 2 year, $11 million dollar contract and is done with it. It could go higher. If Johansen does everything we dream of him doing, he gets his money (and then some) when the bridge deal is up.