Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets have less than two months to work out their spat, one that would have been worked out for them if one of them could have taken the other to arbitration. And Brad Richards on Chicago's second line might not be a great idea.
News and views from the meager scraps left by the hockey world in a very slow middle of July:
News: Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson says the organization is trying to figure out, “the right thing to do,” when it comes to restricted free agent Ryan Johansen.
Views: After scoring 33 goals in the regular season and being a force for the Blue Jackets in the playoffs, Johansen has earned the right to demand a long-term contract for as much money as he wants. But the fact remains that he would have earned that right even if he had been half as good as he was last season. It's free agency and any player can ask for whatever he thinks he's worth.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to get it. What this comes down to is organizational philosophy and the Blue Jackets obviously, at this moment in time, don’t think giving Johansen anything beyond a two-year deal is the best course of action. That’s they’re right, too. While Johansen is quick to point out that he led the Blue Jackets in goals and points last season, the team can just as quickly remind him that the season before he had five goals in 40 games and was a healthy scratch for their minor league affiliate.
It has led to the predictable “slap-in-the-face” proclamations, but if Johansen is smart, he’ll take the bridge deal, you know, the same way P.K. Subban and Matt Duchene did, then get the Blue Jackets to pay up, either in arbitration or in the form of a long-term deal.
If neither side budges and this extends through the summer, into training camp and perhaps, into the season, nobody wins. Johansen will be just 22 years old when the season begins and he needs to be in camp and on the roster for opening night. Historically, players who miss time at that point in the season take a couple of months to find their game and the Blue Jackets, who have a chance to be a legitimate contender in a weak Eastern Conference, can’t afford to have that happen.
I’m willing to bet that right about now the Blue Jackets wish the NHL, instead of treating arbitration like the bogeyman, would increase its scope. If Johansen or the team had arbitration rights, one of them would have filed, ensuring Johansen would be under contract at a reasonable amount and they’d all be able to move on with their summer.
Views: This would worry me if I were a Blackhawks fan. The Brad Richards we saw in the Stanley Cup final has lost a lot of speed and both Kane and Saad rely on speed to create offense. Seeing Richards on that line would concern me the same way Jarome Iginla signed for three years on a team that has a go-go mentality.
What happens when Kane picks up the puck in his own zone and wheels it up the ice at breakneck speed, enters the offensive zone and realizes he has only one option because Richards isn’t in position yet?
Don’t get me wrong. I think Richards was a solid signing. He’s a character player who can help a team, but giving him too big a role, like asking him to center the second line between two players whose game is predicated on speed, might be expecting too much.
News: Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock defends himself over allegations that free agents are avoiding Detroit because of him.
Views: All Babcock needs to do is point to his coaching record, which is essentially what he did. He also said that if the Red Wings are concerned about potential free agents not liking him, he should be coaching somewhere else. And he’s right. But the betting in this corner is he won’t be coaching anywhere else. Because he’s the best coach in the NHL and the Wings will realize that. So do free agents who really want to be pushed and want to win. Players aren’t going to Detroit these days because they’re not seen as a contender. After all those years of success, they’re in a low ebb. They’ve lost some good people like Steve Yzerman and Jim Nill and Detroit is finally finding out how the other half lives. That’s nobody’s fault, least of all Babcock’s.