On July 1, 2023, Kent Johnson will be able to sign an extension that kicks in for the 2024-25 NHL season. In 61 games this season, Johnson's 31 points rank fourth among NHL rookies. He's been one of the Blue Jackets' best players this season and one could argue he's been their best player over this recent stretch, with 1-3--4 in his last six games. Not only has he shined offensively, but he's made defensive plays such as this one below in Tuesday night's game against Pittsburgh.
#CBJ Laine (20) goal pic.twitter.com/0jCJn0JnAi— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) March 8, 2023
Johnson is a pillar of this team's rebuild, and the earlier they can agree on an extension, the cheaper his long-term cap hit is going to be. Because make no mistake, if he stays healthy, he's going to continue on a superstar trajectory due to his world-class talent and work ethic. Look no further than the Devils' Jack Hughes for an example of what I'm talking about. During the 2021-22 season, his last before being an RFA, Hughes signed an eight-year, $8M cap hit extension with New Jersey. Today, Hughes is one of the best players in the NHL and that $8M annual price tag looks like an absolute bargain.
#CBJ Johnson (13) goal pic.twitter.com/XbOP2sRxoN— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) March 1, 2023
Now, I know Johnson isn't as good as Hughes and plays the wing as opposed to Hughes playing center so maybe that number will be lower, but if Johnson will be making--and I'm just guessing here--around $7M a year against the cap from 2024-25 through 2031-32, that is how you win championships. But, if the two sides aren't able to agree to a long-term deal and Johnson signs a bridge deal for let's say three years and continues to play well, he's going to be able to command even more in his next negotiation.
#CBJ Johnson (12) goal pic.twitter.com/3vVnFrf4gH— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) February 17, 2023
While signing an eight-year deal might be an overpay in year one and maybe even year two, even though I'd argue it wouldn't be, being able to assure that a future superstar and franchise cornerstone will be around for the distant future at a very reasonable cost is something that has to be done.
The Jackets need to make Johnson a Jacket for a long time and they need to do as soon as possible.