Blue Jackets Can't Mess Around In Negotiations With Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko

By Coby Maeir on May 26, 2023 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Kirill Marchenko (86) celebrates his goal scored against the Los Angeles Kings with center Kent Johnson (91) during the third period at Arena.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On July 1, the first day of free agency, the Blue Jackets will be able to sign two of their young stars, Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko, to contract extensions that will kick in at the start of the 2024-25 season. Both players are heading into the final year of their entry-level contracts and are currently scheduled to be restricted free agents following the 2023-24 season. 

On the first day of free agency in 2022, the Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world and signed former Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year deal at a $9.75M cap hit. While the decision surprised many at the time, there are now more details on Gaudreau's departure from Calgary.

Craig Button, TSN's Director of Scouting, appeared on TSN 1050's Overdrive on Wednesday and shed light on why Gaudreau's contract negotiation with the Flames went south.

"It got messed up the summer before. When they lowballed him, that's when it got messed up. It didn't get messed up last year, it got messed up when they lowballed him when he had one year left on his contract. That's what happened. And they lowballed him big time. I think it was something along the lines of a $50,000 pay increase over what he was making. A point-a-game player since he entered the league. Top-10, top-11 guy, and they lowball them. And Johnny didn't forget it."

For extra context, in the 2021 off-season, Gaudreau was heading into the final year of a six-year, $6.75M cap hit contract coming off of a season where he scored 19-30--49 in 56 games. At that point in his career, he scored 170-324--494 in 520 games. What Button is saying is in that same summer, the Flames offered him an extension with a cap hit/AAV of $6.8M. Sure, that's a lot of money, but it's also a slap in the face to Gaudreau. 

Yes, it's a different situation with Johnson and Marchenko, as they are one year away from being RFAs for the first time while Gaudreau was a year away from being a UFA, but Button made another great point that shouldn't be taken lightly.

"These aren't objects you're dealing with," Button said. "These are people that have a lot of strength and conviction in their talents."

No, the Blue Jackets shouldn't concede to whatever Johnson and Marchenko ask for in negotiations, but they also shouldn't disrespect their players with a lowball offer, because as Button said, players remember those things. 

Johnson and Marchenko are two players the Blue Jackets should want to keep around for a long time. If they ask for a fair number, and the Jackets make the upcoming negotiations difficult for them, don't you think they and their agents will remember that the next time the two parties sit at the negotiating table? 

"These aren't objects you're dealing with. These are people that have a lot of strength and conviction in their talents."– Craig Button on TSN 1050's Overdrive

Again, the Blue Jackets have to do what they feel is in the team's best interests. However, it appears that it is in their best interests to have Johnson and Marchenko for a long time. 

The moral of the story is that if you lowball players in negotiation, it's going to cost you.

View 10 Comments