Full disclosure: I really, really like Chris Pronger. On the ice, he was, in my opinion, one of the most dominant players of his era and a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Off the ice, I consider him a friend. I’m honored to have been invited by him to share in the festivities when the Peterborough Petes raise a banner in his honor Nov. 2. I have his phone number in my list of contacts and we talk regularly, mostly about hockey, but of other things as well. During his career and even in the three years since he has played, Chris Pronger has filled my notebook and tape recorder with insightful, funny and downright eye-popping quotes. I find him intelligent, irreverent and refreshing.
I also have an enormous amount of sympathy for his current situation. Because he’s still listed as an active player for salary cap purposes, he cannot get on with his life. Because he’s still employed by and being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers, he’s stuck in a no-man’s land where he can’t retire and he can’t do much of anything else. Up until last season he was at least scouting for the Flyers, but that arrangement ended when Ron Hextall took over as GM in the off-season. Read more
In the end, the Ryan Johansen imbroglio ended up rather predictably and much like many of these situations resolve themselves. Each side gives a little and takes a little, with both being able to save face and capable of claiming they made a good deal.
But that middle part, boy, that was a nasty piece of work. The Blue Jackets had the high ground when it came to what they were offering Johansen on a two-year bridge deal, but they certainly did their part to drag this whole process through the mud. The demands Johansen and agent Kurt Overhardt made were pretty outrageous – although Overhardt says they were erroneous – but the fact that this whole thing got as dirty as it did was largely because of the Blue Jackets and their move to personally besmirch the agent. Read more
On Tuesday, the Dallas Stars assigned offensive defenseman Julius Honka to the American League’s Texas Stars. As an 18-year-old experiencing his first NHL training camp, it was no surprise that the Finnish blueliner wouldn’t make the cut. What surprised many observers was that Dallas was allowed to assign Honka to the AHL in the first place.
After all, Honka played in the Western League for Swift Current last season and conventional wisdom held that players drafted out of the CHL who still had major junior eligibility (such as Honka) had to be returned to junior; they couldn’t go to the AHL.
This is the rule that has vexed sometimes-Buffalo Sabre Mikhail Grigorenko for a couple years now, since he was drafted out of the Quebec League. But the Stars were confronted with a glitch in the system.
If Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen can take solace in one thing, it’s that their peers definitely feel their pain. Other hockey executives aren’t so sure about the Blue Jackets taking their beefs with Ryan Johansen and his agent Kurt Overhardt so public, but they do understand the frustration Davidson and Kekalainen are experiencing.
In an effort to determine whether the Blue Jackets are handling this standoff with Johansen in the right way, thn.com canvassed 10 current and former GMs for their views on the subject. As has been well documented, Johansen is a restricted free agent with the Blue Jackets and is currently embroiled in a contract dispute that has gotten quite ugly. It’s so poisoned that Davidson recently blamed Overhardt for his handling of the situation, which was followed by the Blue Jackets making public each of the offers they’ve presented to Johansen, all of which have been turned down. Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – When Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen took agent Kurt Overhardt to task for his handling of the Ryan Johansen negotiations on Monday, it turned out that was just the warm-up act. When it came to president of hockey operations John Davidson to take his turn, he turned both barrels directly on Overhardt.
This is getting ugly, folks. And personal. The organization has chosen to make the agent the villain in this tale and Overhardt, for his part, wants no part of the public mudslinging. And that’s probably the best plan of attack for him. If someone has to be vilified here, it’s better that it’s the agent rather than the player.
“It makes no sense, Davidson said. “When you see numbers that are thrown at us, we shouldn’t even respond. That’s how bad it is. It’s embarrassing. And if the kid sits out, he sits out. I wonder if the agent’s going to pay him his money back that he’s going to lose by sitting out. Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The biggest question when it comes to Ryan Johansen’s stalemate with the Columbus Blue Jackets is just because the contract Johansen wants doesn’t exist, are he and his agent wrong for seeking it?
In reality, if the numbers being reported are correct, Johansen is seeking a groundbreaking contract. A two-year bridge deal at $6.5 million a year is about $3 million a year more than the Blue Jackets are willing to pay at this point. At the Traverse City prospects tournament, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen turned the heat up significantly on Johansen and his agent, Kurt Overhardt, by essentially saying that if Johansen doesn’t sign with the team before it opens training camp Thursday, the organization will concentrate on the players it has in camp. “That’s it, that will be the only focus,” Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch Monday.
This, of course, is a pressure tactic. The Blue Jackets have as much to lose as Johansen if he stays out of training camp and this drags into the regular season, so they’ll continue to work at this until something gets done. But the waters are getting more poisoned with every passing day and Kekalainen set his sights directly on Overhardt by suggesting these negotiations are more about the agent than the player.
“From their side…this should be about Ryan Johansen and his future, his long-term future with the Blue Jackets,” Kekalainen said. “This shouldn’t be about setting a standard or about an agent breaking records.” Read more
With no signs of progress and the two sides still light years apart, the possibility of Ryan Johansen sitting out training camp, and possibly even part of this NHL season, is becoming more real with every passing day.
And as that day draws nearer, you can expect an avalanche of reports that will indicate Johansen is “holding out” on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Should they fail to reach contract terms with their respective teams, the same will go for Nino Niederreiter and Darcy Kuemper of the Minnesota Wild, Danny DeKeyser of the Detroit Red Wings, Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins and Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues.
But the fact is, not a single one of them is a holdout. In fact, the term “holdout” is antiquated and should be banned from the hockey lexicon altogether. Not a single player has held out since the collective bargaining agreement of 2005. Read more
The NHL took a hard stand during the 2012-13 lockout when it came to maximum contract length, fighting fervently for five years, then compromising at eight (for re-signings).
Since then, up to the pact agreed to by P.K. Subban in early August, 11 players had won max term. In the big picture, it’s a small number, representing a tiny fraction of all deals. But due to the dollars and profile involved, the question remains: is eight great?
The answer depends on your perspective. If you’re demanding equal value across all seasons, prepare to be disappointed. The evidence shows that, apart from notable exceptions, returns diminish on players beginning in their early 30s.