Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen had some strong words for unsigned forward Ryan Johansen on Monday.
Speaking at the prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich., Kekalainen urged his star center not to miss the start of training camp, which begins with physicals on Thursday.
"Our success is going to come from being a team, not a bunch of individuals or stars, or whatever," Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch "We're not a star-studded team. To me it's huge that you go through training camp together and get ready."
According to Portzline, the sides are $3 million apart on each year of the two-year contract that has been discussed with Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt. Bill Zito, the Columbus assistant GM, met with Overhardt again in Traverse City on Friday, according to Portzline.
RYAN JOHANSEN - 2013-14
Center - CBJ
GOALS: 33 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 63
SOG: 237 | +/-: 3
Johansen is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. He led the Blue Jackets in scoring last season with team-highs in goals (33) and points (63). Overhardt is citing that production to seek $6.5 million a year, according to published reports.
Kekalainen insisted the team is willing to pay Johansen a competitive wage, but does not believe the 22-year-old merits the money he has asked for during these negotiations, at least not at this point in his career.
"His 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."
Kekalainen also issued a deadline of sorts, saying he wants a deal in place by the start of training camp.
"We're going to exhaust every option to get a contract done before camp," he said. "After that, we'll focus just on the team, the guys who are here."