Ryan Johansen has missed most of camp yet is still a Columbus Blue Jacket.
The 22-year-old centre and the team's leading scorer finally reached agreement with the club on a three-year deal that will pay him $3 million each of the first two years and $6 million in the third year. The cap hit will be $4 million per season, according to figures supplied by the office of Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt.
"I'm really excited to have this deal done," Johansen said in a statement released by the club. "I can't wait to rejoin my teammates, coaches and our fans in Columbus and help this team build on what we've started the past two seasons."
Coach Todd Richards was happy to have Johansen returning and also to not have the strained negotiations grabbing his or his players' attention.
"(The signing is) nice on a couple of fronts," Richards said. "We're getting a good player back and with everyone else it's not a story or a distraction that's lingering in the background."
Johansen had totaled just 14 goals and 19 assists in his first 107 NHL games before exploding for 33 goals and 30 assists in 82 games last season while leading the club to its best regular-season record ever and a berth in the playoffs.
But he was a restricted free agent and the negotiations between him and the Blue Jackets soon got ugly.
The club offered him a two-year bridge contract worth $3 million a year but Overhardt countered with a request for $13 million over the same period, the team said.
John Davidson, the team's director of hockey operations, was clearly agitated when he spoke at the Blue Jackets media day three weeks ago. He repeatedly said he had negotiated in good faith — also offering Johansen $32 million for six years and $46 million over eight — but had referred to Johansen's demands as "extortion."
Sharpshooter sorely missed from lineup
Pending travel and visa arrangements, Johansen, who is back home in Canada, was expected to be available for the Blue Jackets' season opener on Thursday night in Buffalo. The club opens at home on Saturday night against the New York Rangers.
He had missed more than two weeks of the team's training camp. Final cuts are expected later today.
The Blue Jackets are in dire need of their top scorer after losing forwards Boone Jenner (broken hand, out 5 weeks) and Nathan Horton (bad back, out indefinitely) in recent weeks.
The new contract, as expected, has some huge advantages to both sides. The club preferred a longer term and got Johansen for a reasonable $6 million over the next two years. Johansen's jump to $6 million in the third year would lay the groundwork for a much bigger pay upgrade thereafter if he continues his progress.
After the deal is done, Johansen will have one year left as a restricted free agent.
The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft was paid in the $800,000-$900,000 range each of the past three seasons under an entry-level contract. After his breakthrough season, he was featured on the cover of the team's postseason media guide, his stick raised in celebration and a big smile on his face.
The club had expressed reservations about his commitment at times earlier in his career but he was clearly a team leader as the club went 43-32-7 (93 points) a year ago despite a 5-10-0 start. The Blue Jackets won their first two playoff games ever before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the first round.