Johansen a bargain at $5 million

Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.

Editor's note: The two sides reached an agreement on Oct. 6 that will reportedly pay Johansen $3 million this season and next, and $6 million in 2016-17.

Based on last season's breakout, Ryan Johansen is worth around $5.5 million per season right now, with a future upside in the range of $6.0 million to $6.8 million, like the very best of his closest comparables, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Joe Pavelski. If Columbus is unprepared to pay for a player of that potential -- the Blue Jackets have thus far rebuffed the offer of $5 million per season from the Johansen side, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun -- then there could be several NHL teams that are, via an offer sheet.

These are the conclusion I've reached after a close look at the underlying analytics. In fairness, there are a lot of locker-room factors and on-ice intangibles that an outsider with a spreadsheet could never measure -- but the stats can sometimes be an illuminating starting point.

Ideally, you want to pay a guy absolutely no more than what similar players make, and even then, only if such a player can provide enough value to your specific team for that kind of a salary. Although his first two seasons were forgettable, Johansen's breakout season at age 21 places him near the top third of his usage-based peers -- very few of whom established themselves this early in their careers.

Columbus has great depth at center, but is lacking in the top-end talent that Johansen represents. If the Blue Jackets are prepared to go forward without him, there are a few teams with an even greater need for his services, and the overall talent to minimize the value of the compensatory draft picks they'd give up if Columbus didn't match the offer sheet.

Let's start by identifying what Johansen brings, what that costs, and then in which NHL cities he might fit best (if not Columbus).