TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- For two years, the Columbus Blue Jackets have worked hard to build an identity. They’re a four-line, everybody-works, blue-collar group where no one player is more important than the team.
In 2013-14, the season started without big free-agent signing Nathan Horton, and the Blue Jackets survived. They got only 22 games out of Marian Gaborik, and the Blue Jackets survived. They’d like to think that goes for anyone in the lineup.
It’s a theory that could soon be tested.
Last season, center Ryan Johansen was the constant. He played all 82 games, developed into the No. 1 center the franchise had previously never enjoyed and finished with 33 goals -- 19 more than he’d scored in his 107 previous NHL games.
Training camp opens this Thursday, and barring a complete course change from one of the two sides, the restricted free agent won’t be there.
Like many teams this summer, Columbus is discovering that the second contract is becoming a bear to negotiate. It’s the one time teams have the hammer and most of the leverage, and they're trying to use it. Across the league as the cap increases, players and their agents are pushing back