Jackets GM Kekalainen firm on Johansen talks

Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen took a hard line in the Ryan Johansen contract talks on Monday.

Johansen, who’s an unsigned restricted free agent, is playing hardball with the Blue Jackets brass, but Kekalainen has had enough and drew a line in the sand, per the Columbus Dispatch.

“Our success is going to come from being a team, not a bunch of individuals or stars, or whatever,” Kekalainen said during the NHL prospects tournament.

“To me, it’s huge that you go through training camp together and get ready.

“When training camp starts, that’s it. After that, the focus is on the guys who are there on tryouts or guys who are under contract. That’s it. That will be the only focus.”

The Blue Jackets have offered Johansen a two-year deal worth between $3 million and $3.5 million per season.

However, Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt is seeking about $6.5 million a year for his client. When asked if Kekalainen will no longer negotiate with Overhardt, he was pretty emphatic with his answer.

“Draw your own conclusions,” he said.

Johansen led Columbus in scoring during the 2013/14 season with 33 goals and 63 points. However, Kekalainen is aware of his talent, and is willing to pay him like a franchise player.

“[Johansen’s] potential is great,” Kekalainen said. “But we’re not there yet, after one year, where we’re willing to invest franchise-type money into his future. Do it once or twice more. Make us pay. Go ahead and make us pay.

“We have no problem paying the dollars when it’s earned, but the key word there is ‘earned.’ While we believe in his future, we want to see him do it a little bit longer than just one year.

“We’re going to exhaust every option to get a contract done before camp,” Kekalainen said. “After that, we’ll focus just on the team, the guys who are here.”

Both sides have two more days to settle, or else Johansen will have to clear out his locker.

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