This Whole Thing Stinks... On Both Sides

Here's the entire picture. It's not pretty.

Now that we've gotten to the point that exhibition games have been missed by Ryan Johansen (though it should be noted that other players didn't play, either), another milestone has come and gone without a contract. The near history has been sordid, and it looks to get a bit worse before it ultimately gets better and a deal is done.

Let's look at the entire picture.

The Numbers

We only know the hard numbers that the club has reported (very openly, in public, with some stank on it):

Two years, $6 million (AAV $3 million)
Six years, $32 million (AAV $5.333333 million)
Eight years, $46 million (AAV $5.75 million)

Conversely, Johansen's agent Kurt Overhardt has reportedly made two "bridge" offers of two years:

Two years, $13 million (AAV $6.5 million)
Two years, $9.4 million (AAV $4.7 million)

That last offer was made late last week, and so it represents a big move on the part of the agent and player. We have heard it was rejected, but it also means that the club and the player are now just $1.7 million per year apart. In my gut, I feel like, if that $4.7 ended up being the number, I could certainly live with it. It's more than fair to the player, and it represents some good faith on both parts.

That said, I totally understand why the team rejected it. The is no way for us to know *how* it was rejected (i.e., angrily? let us get back to you with a counter?). I expect the team to make a counter offer at some point in the next few days. But, before we get to all of that (the optics and antics of both sides), let's look at the raw numbers.

The Market

This is a sticking point all around. What is Johansen's "market"? We don't really know. He had a great season this past year, and many believe he's primed to do even better going forward. That said, we have no way of knowing where his ceiling is, both over the course of the two-year bridge contracts being kicked around and over the life of his career.

I thought it would be a pertinent exercise to look at some of the players that were also drafted high in 2010, since many signed their second contracts either last summer or this summer (all salary numbers courtesy of Capgeek). Keep in mind that, at the time of these deals, all of these players were in the same situation as Johansen (RFA, no arbitration). Here goes!

Ryan Johansen (#4 overall)
189 games played, 47 goals, 96 points (.25 gpg, .51 ppg)

Taylor Hall (#1 overall) - signed last summer to a seven-year, $42 million deal (AAV $6 million)
171 games, 65 goals, 145 points (.38 gpg, .85 ppg) at the time of deal signature

Tyler Seguin (#2 overall) signed last summer to a six-year, $34.5 million deal (AAV $5.75 million)
203 games, 56 goals, 121 points (.28 gpg, .60 ppg) at the time of deal signature

Nino Niederreiter (#5 overall) - signed this summer to a three-year, $8 million deal (AAV $2.666667 million)
145 games, 16 goals, 39 points (.11 gpg, .27 ppg) at the time of deal signature

Brett Connolly (#6 overall) - signed this summer to a one-year, $850,500 deal
84 games, 6 goals, 17 points (.07 gpg, .20 ppg) at the time of deal signature

Jeff Skinner (#7 overall) signed last summer to a six-year, $34.350 million deal (AAV $5.725 million)
188 games, 64 goals, 131 points (.34 gpg, .70 ppg) at the time of deal signature

These are all the forwards in the top 10 of that draft still playing in the NHL (Alexander Burmistrov is in the KHL) that are now off their ELCs (Mikael Granlund has one more year left on his ELC). What can we divine in terms of Johansen's market from this?

For one, Johansen lags behind the three guys that got their money last summer in terms of his ELC production. But, even beyond that, what the club offered him in both of the long-term contracts is more than fair. His production is under that of those three players, and if you count for cap adjustment, those offers would seem to slot in right where they should.

Niederreiter somehow managed to get eight million dollars, though it must be noted that the Wild basically bought out one of his arbitration years in so doing, so while that contract makes the $3 million AAV of the Jackets' bridge offer seem very low (it is low, yes), it must be noted that the Wild are paying a premium to avoid a year of arbitration if Niederreiter breaks out further this year now that he's gone from the black hole that is Long Island.

Connolly is really a non-factor in these negotiations, in my opinion, as his numbers and one year contract really don't offer much in the way of comparison.

So, my conclusion from all of this?

Johansen is probably "worth" more than $3 million per season, just based on all of those comparables. That said, there is literally zero evidence that he is worth more AAV for two years of a bridge contract than Hall, Seguin, and Skinner are worth in AAV over the next six years. That said, Johansen's six- and eight-year offers from the club seem mostly fair in terms of today's dollars compared to the players he was drafted with.

That said, I totally agree that he would be foolish to sign those deals, even though I consider them fair right now. Why?

The Subban Effect

We've all heard about this, but here's some more simple math. What if those three guys that cashed in last summer had done what P.K. Subban did? Subban signed a two-year bridge deal after a lengthy hold-out, and he made $5.75 million over that deal (AAV $2.875).

First, two notes:
1) Fat lot of good that hold-out did, eh? He had the same leverage that Johansen has now. He didn't get the big pay day. There's some history to learn from here, on both sides.

2) That AAV doesn't compare directly, because he's a defenseman, and the cap has changed drastically since then. Let's try to draw a better comparison in terms of what a fair AAV would be on that type of contract. James Van Riemsdyk was taken #2 in that same 2007 draft, and hit the end of his ELC over the summer of the lockout, so his AAV as it compares to the new cap is more accurate. He had played 196 games, and scored 47 goals and totaled 99 points (.24 gpg, .51 ppg). In other words, his totals were pretty damn close to identical to Johansen's.

Can we stipulate that as a fair comparison? I think so. So, what'd he get as an RFA?

Well, his rights were traded to Toronto, and he signed a six-year, $25.5 million deal (AAV $4.25 million). The cap in that first, post-lockout season was set at $70.2 before being cut to $64.3 last season. This was a known event that was coming, so I think it's fair to say that the deal was signed with the $64.3 million salary cap in mind. If you compare that to this upcoming year's cap, it's the equivalent of $4.56 million AAV.

And that was for a multi-year deal that bought out JVR's arbitration RFA years as well as FOUR years of UFA status. So, again, if you use this comparison, the six-year offer from the CBJ seems more than fair.

But, back to Subban.

He signed that bridge deal after a lengthy hold-out, played out those two seasons, and did exactly what Johansen probably expects to do: he won a Norris trophy and BROKE. THE. BANK. this summer. He is now set to make $36 million over the next four seasons (plus $36 million for the four seasons after that).

So, if you're scoring at home, Subban took LESS on the bridge deal but will make MORE over that six year span than ANY of the other players we've listed above. He's set to make a total of $41.75 million over the six year span coming out of his ELC. None of the players we looked at above comes within $5 million of that.

So, The Numbers??!?

What have we learned, though all of this? Well, I know I get accused by a commenter or two of shilling for the team, but damn it if the long-term offers aren't really, really fair given where Johansen sits RIGHT NOW in his career with no arbitration rights.

That said, the two-for-six bridge offer is a tad bit low. If we look at what he "deserves" based on all of these comparisons, it's probably around $4 million per season for the two year bridge deal with the expectation that he'll crush it on the follow-up RFA deal like Subban did.

I leave this section the way it is, because the next section is where things get messy.

The Optics... Ugh

This is where it gets hairy, especially for the club given their recent rants in the media.

First and foremost, the above work was done to show one thing that's really hard to argue: the team is, largely, RIGHT with its belief that what it's offering is fair. They don't HAVE to offer Johansen any more than two-for-six, but I believe (editorializing) that they'd be willing to go higher. That said, as Jeff pointed out this morning, they shouldn't bid against themselves or "meet in the middle" when the agent/player are nowhere in the realm of reality. And, the two-for-13 offer was nowhere in the realm of reality (the two-for-9.4 offer hadn't been confirmed when Jeff wrote his piece).

That said, to use the word "extortion" in the press? Bad form. To act like you're surprised that an agent is driving a hard bargain--especially an agent that has a history of his clients holding out off their ELCs? Come on. It's beneath the FO to take it this way. Had they just said that, "the agent/player won't budge off of their offers that are nowhere close to our offers that we believe are fair, and so we're ready to move forward in camp" it would have looked much better.

I've said many, many times (sigh) that neither side is truly "RIGHT" in this.

If you look at all of the comparisons above, it's clear that Johansen and his agent were way off-base for most of the summer, and while the $9.4 million offer is much, MUCH closer to reality, it didn't come until the player had missed the first day of camp. That's weak sauce.

Johansen should look at Subban's situation and realize that there is almost no benefit to him in sitting out, unless he's willing to play a year in Russia for $5 million only to find himself right back in the same position with Columbus next year. His only real hope at this point would be to miss regular season games and have Columbus implode offensively and defensively with the hopes that they'd come crawling back to him on their knees. But, even then, he'd better hit the ground running and start lighting it up, or else this year will be a complete waste for everyone involved.

Is that really what you want your legacy to be?

Conversely, he should look at what Subban has earned for himself after signing the bridge deal, look at the comparable long-term contracts his draft peers have gotten, and realize that he can make MUCH, MUCH more money in the near-long term even if he signs the crappy two-year offer. Many may not like it, but that's the reality of the CBA and his RFA/no arbitration status.

Thus, I think the club has the leverage, and their numbers are closer to what's probably in line for Johansen at this point in his career. But, the club was wrong to completely destroy the confidentiality of the negotiations and fire off words like "extortion" in the press.

There are apparently agents that agree with John Davidson. That said, what good did it do to sound off in the press? Everyone knows the CBA and where Johansen stands within those confines. He's not going to sway the opinion of the media at large with those statements, when it's clear that most everyone already knows the score.

What purpose does it serve? All it really does, in this one writer's opinion, is make it so that many fans are just sick and tired of the entire saga.

I think that's where I'm finding myself, more and more.

The Summary

Regardless of where you come down, it's hard to argue that ANYONE looks good right now.

A deal is probably going to get done, and one would expect it will get done before the regular season starts. If it doesn't, that only adds to the ugliness of this situation that has festered on much, much longer than it should have.

In addition, if the team has rejected the latest offer from Overhardt--which represents a big move on their part--without any plan to come back with a counter that moves in that direction as well, then the scales tip in the other direction and it will look more and more like they're simply playing hardball for the sake of hardball.

Everyone knows that, when you make your first offer in a negotiation, you don't go with the number you actually want to settle on. You go way high or way low. Hence, the club's $3 million and the agent's $6.5 million. We've now seen that the agent/player went way high on their first offer, and have now come closer. That said, anyone with any experience buying a car or a house knows that the $4.7 number isn't the absolute floor of what they'll be happy with. When I bought my first house, for example, I think I ended up making four offers to get to the number I originally had told the realtor I'd be content to pay.

But, the ball's now in the court of the team. If they won't counter offer this latest deal with something in the neighborhood of the $4 million per that we arrived at above, then they have lost a lot of the good-faith good will that they've earned throughout the process.

Make no mistake, this latest offer from Overhardt and Johansen is a significant step. And, while the club's rejection of it looks bad in a vacuum, we don't know the particulars. BUT, if the club makes no effort to come back to the middle and show a willingness to move, then it looks bad on them just as much.

It's already looked bad in many ways for both camps. Let's hope it doesn't get much worse.

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