The first step to getting Ryan Johansen back on the ice with the Blue Jackets was completed Monday morning when he agreed to terms on a new three-year deal.
After that, though, there was another hurdle to face -- getting him to Columbus and ready to play hockey as soon as possible.
Jarmo Kekalainen said the final contract offer tabled to Johansen and agent Kurt Overhardt was done with time being the enemy, as the team’s regular season opener is Thursday in Buffalo and in order to have Johansen available for that game, they would need him signed in short order.
Then there are immigration issues to sort out, which are common whenever a player is coming to the United States from Canada or any other country, for that matter. Johansen has been training and skating daily back home in Vancouver and will need to be cleared by U.S. immigration before he can officially rejoin the team.
Johansen flew from Vancouver to Toronto on Monday and will fly to Columbus as soon as he's cleared by immigration.
Now, for the important question: will Johansen be in “game shape” when he arrives, or will he need a practice or two before he’s deemed ready to play against Buffalo? Neither Kekalainen nor coach Todd Richards seemed ready to commit one way or the other, but the preference is to get Johansen in practice as soon as possible and go from there.
“We’ll have to see where he’s at physically," Richards said. "We’re not going to be in a rush to get him into the lineup if he’s not ready, but we’ll just have to see.
“If he’s been training and working hard, we’ll see where he’s at. There’s always going to be that shot of adrenaline and that excitement to play. He’ll have that, but (the real test) is going to be once he settles down. It’s probably more about his stamina than anything else.”
Depending on the statuses of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, who both left Monday's practice early for precautionary reasons, the Blue Jackets' lineup could further undergo some shuffling before they're ready to drop the puck on Thursday.
Having Johansen in the lineup would certainly be a best-case scenario and one the Blue Jackets and Johansen are optimistic about, but they have to let the immigration process play out and then decide if he's fit for game action after seeing him skate.
“I’m not going to say no to (Johansen playing Thursday)," Richards said. "Again, we’ll have to see when he gets back. I don’t think systematic play is going to make a difference because it’s similar to last year. I haven’t really had time to sit down (and think about where he fits) and how that would shake up the lineup.
"This was something that happened, it’s part of our game, the money side of it, the negotiation and contract side of it. The question for me now is, ‘is he ready to play?’ And if he we can get him in the lineup and he can help us, then great.”