Ryan Johansen vs. Torey Krug – a study in contract leverage

Ken Campbell
Ryan Johansen (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The next time you’re inclined to think about NHL players as pampered and overpaid millionaires with no sense of gratitude, shift your thoughts to Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. The only box he checks off in that description is millionaire.

Krug led all rookie defensemen in goals, assists and points last season. No first-year player, forward or defenseman, had more points on the power play than Krug’s 19. He was named to the NHL’s all-rookie team and became just the fifth defenseman in Bruins history to record double digits in goals in his first NHL season. His 14 goals were one more than Bobby Orr had in his rookie season.

For all that, Krug was rewarded with an almost $400,000 pay cut. And in doing so, he provided a fascinating study of leverage when it comes to negotiating contracts. Read more

Did Ryan Ellis deserve a five-year deal? Predators say yes. Here’s why

Matt Larkin
Predators management believes Ryan Ellis can blossom offensively this season. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)

Take a look at Nashville Predators blueline depth chart. If your eyes bug out of your head, you’re forgiven.

The defense corps’ present and future are blindingly bright. Shea Weber, the game’s most complete player at his position, leads the way, usually paired with rapidly improving, well-rounded Roman Josi. A phenom named Seth Jones joined the fray last year, making the team as a teenager months after Nashville took him fourth overall. Big, steady Swede Mattias Ekholm looks like he’s an NHLer for good after a few years marinating in the American League. And GM David Poile added bruising veteran Anton Volchenkov on a one-year deal this off-season.

Rounding out that top six is the somewhat forgotten man: Ryan Ellis. Amid the headlines in recent years stolen by Ryan Suter’s departure, Weber’s offer sheet and Jones’ arrival, Ellis has faded into the background. Perhaps that’s why, at first glance, a five-year deal paying him $2.5 million annually seems like a lot, more so in term than cap hit. Ellis? Five years? Did he deserve it?

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Agents scratching their heads over Ryan Johansen’s contract demands

Ryan Johansen (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operation, John Davidson, sounded off last week over the Ryan Johansen imbroglio, he backed up his stance by saying, “There are agents that can’t understand it.”

We at thn.com thought we would put that theory to the test. And if our sampling of conversations with 10 prominent agents is any indication, unfortunately for Johansen and his agent Kurt Overhardt, Davidson is right. There are a good number of player agents out there who can’t understand the stance Johansen and Overhardt have taken. (Last week, we spoke to 10 GMs for their views on the stance the Blue Jackets have taken.) Read more

GMs feel Jackets pain, but question decision to go public with Ryan Johansen

Ken Campbell
Ryan Johansen (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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

Hi, Minnesota? It’s me, Marty Brodeur. I’d like to apply for a job

Matt Larkin
The Wild need goaltending help, and free agent Martin Brodeur awaits an opportunity. (Getty Images)

It’s a tough time to play goalie for the Minnesota Wild. Josh Harding, fresh off an outstanding season in which he led the league in goals-against average and save percentage, already had a major hurdle to climb two days ago. Multiple sclerosis would limit his ability to handle a full starter’s workload. Things went from bad to worse for Harding Wednesday when he broke his foot. The details remain foggy, but so far we know Harding kicked a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate. He’s out indefinitely.

Next up is Darcy Kuemper, 24, who was good but not great in chunks of starting duty last season. In theory, he could step right into Harding’s role, but he’s a restricted free agent and contract talks have not gone well. Wild coach Mike Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher publicly expressed their frustration about the process. Kuemper has even threatened to bolt for the Kontinental League. Kuemper wants a one-way deal, but the Wild prefer a two-way. Kuemper apparently hasn’t quite played well enough to win the organization’s confidence.

That leaves Niklas Backstrom as the “sure thing.” The Finn is 36 and fresh off core muscle surgery. He looked like a shell of his old self when he did play last season. He’s supposedly healthy now, but he’s only healthy relative to his 2013-14 self.

Minnesota’s net situation is dire enough that GM Chuck Fletcher invited Ilya Bryzgalov back for a training camp tryout. Bryzgalov accepted. Maybe Fletcher simply wants to up the heat on Kuemper’s camp. Or maybe the Wild believe they can get by with a Backstrom/Bryzgalov tandem. Bryz was brilliant at times for Minnesota down the stretch last spring after coming over at the trade deadline, going 7-1-3 with a 2.12 GAA and .911 SP. He left a lot to be desired in the playoffs, however, losing six of nine starts with a yucky .885 SP. That’s the problem with Bryzgalov. You never know when he might Bryzgalov things up.

And that’s where I see an opportunity in Minnesota. Martin Brodeur, this is your cue.

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Blue Jackets president John Davidson turns both barrels on Ryan Johansen’s agent

Ken Campbell
Dillon Heatherington, T.J. Tynan, Marko Dano. (Photo by Ken Campbell)

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

Ryan Johansen a prickly problem for Blue Jackets…but he’s not alone

Ken Campbell
Ryan Johansen (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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

Why Kevin Hayes chose the New York Rangers

Kevin Hayes (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Kevin Hayes is one of the biggest names playing at the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan. Heck, he’s been one of the biggest names in hockey this summer. That’s because his senior season at Boston College was so scintillating that teams were fiending to sign him up once it became apparent he would not sign with the team that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks.

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