Johansen contract standoff turning into war of wills

There has been interest from overseas, but the Columbus Blue Jackets know like the rest of us that playing across the ocean would certainly be a last resort for Ryan Johansen.

So the contract standoff between the superstar and his team continues, one of the NHL's most bitter and public fights in years.

Over the weekend, word spread that there was a potential offer from a KHL team for the restricted free agent. Turns out, that's hardly surprising.

"He's had several offers from different leagues over the past two months, not just the KHL," Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, told ESPN.com on Monday morning. "But our focus is on reaching an agreement with Columbus. Right now we’re trying to hopefully focus in on a short-term deal."

Where it stood as of Monday morning: The Jackets still want their leading scorer back at around $3 million a season over two years. It’s been their stance for a long time when it comes to a two-year deal, and it’s believed Overhardt came down last Thursday from the $6 million plus a year he originally asked for to less than $5 million per year. Overhardt would not comment on that information but a source confirmed it to ESPN.com.

But it’s still a standstill. Neither side appears to be wilting one bit.

The Jackets believe they can overcome the temporary loss of Johansen. After all, they got almost nothing from either Nathan Horton or Marian Gaborik (before he was traded) last season and still made the playoffs. So there’s a strong, team-first belief in Columbus that no matter which player is missing, they can overcome it.


On the other hand, an Oct. 23-26 road trek through San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles looks daunting to say the least. They better have a winning record before that trip to California.

Or, one would hope Johansen is signed by then.

What makes this standoff so compelling is that you can make the case for either side. No question the Jackets can point to a long list of bridge deals in the past couple of years that suggest they were well within their rights to try to get Johansen signed at $6 million over two years.

On the other hand, nowhere in the actual CBA does it say a player coming out of an entry-level deal must sign said bridge deal at said compensation. Sure, it’s what GMs around the league want, but it’s not an actual rule.

And Overhardt’s track record says he's not one for getting bullied.

His leverage is clear: If the Jackets start slowly out of the gates missing their top player, there’s the possibility the team will start swaying his way in talks.

The Jackets’ leverage, aside from the kind of bridge deals signed by the likes of Matt Duchene and P.K. Subban in recent years, would come if the team fares just fine without Johansen in the early part of the season. It’s exactly what happened with Montreal a few years back before Subban accepted his bridge deal.

Only one side will be right in the end. Tick-tock ...

The Sens' goalie battle

One storyline to watch this season in Ottawa is the goaltending competition between Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.

Both were signed to new contracts this offseason, but what remains to be seen is if Lehner, 23, can wrestle away the No. 1 job from the 33-year-old incumbent Anderson.

"First of all, our goaltending is in great hands," Senators head coach Paul MacLean told ESPN.com on Monday. "We really feel that we have really good goaltending with two goaltenders who work hard at the game; and they’re both great teammates and great people. So we feel we’re in good shape with our goalies.

"At this point in time, Craig is our No. 1 goalie. In the past he was used to playing 60 to 70 games. He’s not doing that this year. Robin Lehner has earned the opportunity to play more games. If and when he earns those games again in the season, he's going to get to play. The pleasure the coaching staff has, and the team has, is that we can play one of them and have a tremendous amount of confidence the outcome of the game is going to go our way."

Nothing wrong with two guys pushing each other in goal. That can create a great situation, but only if both guys handle it right. You can’t have Anderson out of sorts because he’s not guaranteed his usual number of starts, and you can’t have Lehner openly flustered by having to wait his turn.

Both guys need the right frame of mind for this work.

"That’s what it’s all about, a healthy competition," MacLean said.

The Senators, having traded away top center Jason Spezza, will need solid goaltending this season because offense will be harder to come by. The Anderson-Lehner tandem has the talent to do it.

What I’m curious about is how they handle the situation. You can say what you want now, but nobody likes to be dethroned and Anderson will fight like heck to prove he’s still No. 1.