Kekalainen happy to have ‘big part of team’ back in Johansen

It's a good day in Columbus as the Blue Jackets ink Ryan Johansen to a new deal.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The contract saga that has dragged on since July has finally been put to rest, with the announcement of the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen agreeing to a 3-year, $12 million deal.

"We made the offer," said Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, "and emphasized the importance of getting this deal done now."

This puts to rest negotiations that were, at times, contentious, with neither side talking to the other for long periods of time. With Johansen set to make $3M each of the next two years and $6M in year three, the AAV (annual average value) is $4M. This falls squarely where most thought it would end up.

With the $6M in year three, Johansen will be qualified at that amount going into his next contract talks, in which he will have arbitration rights. The salary cap hit is still relatively low with this deal.

Johansen has incentive to "produce" over the next three years to "make bank," although $12M over three years is a tidy sum for one good year of production. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to replicate the 33-30-63 he put up last season. The onus is squarely on Johansen’s shoulders at this point.

"We’re getting a good player back into our lineup," said head coach Todd Richards, "but we’re not going to be in a rush to get him into the lineup if he’s not ready for it."

It remains to be seen if Johansen has kept himself in tip-top shape while this saga played out.

With Johansen having to get his paperwork settled to work in the United States, traveling to Columbus and getting a physical, Wednesday would appear to be the earliest that he could practice with the team.

COUNTDOWN TO FACE-OFF

"I talked to Joey (Ryan Johansen) briefly already," said Kekalainen, "and basically told him ‘get your butt over here and let’s get to work.’

"I wish this all could have been avoided, but it was something that was necessary for us to go through and get the deal done. Now it’s done and we move forward."

There is an air of relief within Nationwide Arena this Monday afternoon. There is relief that the deal is finally done and relief that they can get down to the brass tacks of starting the season with their number one center.

"He’s a big part of our team, and always has been," Kekalainen said. "We’re happy to have him back and let’s just move forward."

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