The big trades are behind us. The huge moves in free agency have already happened. Heck, even the major contract extensions—cough, cough, P.K. Subban, cough—have gone down.
But the NHL hasn't gone completely dark on us just yet. While the top-shelf moves have been pulled off the rack, teams are still busy wheeling and dealing, even if it is just ensuring that they sign their own talent to extensions.
Let's break down the latest buzz around the league.
One of those contract extensions that has seen its negotiations slowly bake in the summer sun is between Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets. And both the player and team are pretty darn tan at this point.
Two weeks ago, it was reported in this space that contract talks between the Blue Jackets and restricted free agent center Ryan Johansen had taken a major step forward. Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, made a two-year contract proposal to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, acknowledging that his client -- after a public protest -- was willing to accept a 'bridge' contract.
That left one hurdle between the player and the club: money.
The two sides were believed to be at least $3 million apart per season on a two-year deal at that point, and it doesn't appear that much progress has been made.
Asked this weekend if they were still far apart, one of the interested parties responded via text: 'Hectares.'
So they aren't very close, in other words.
But one would guess they'll find a way to get closer. Johansen is coming off a season that saw him score an impressive 33 goals and add 30 assists, a major breakthrough for the 22-year-old. The Blue Jackets will want a happy camper.
The whole thing reminds Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski of another extension saga this summer:
In a different, less old-boys-network league, perhaps there would be an offer sheet placed on Johansen that would force the Blue Jackets’ hands. They’d match, of course, but it would still monkey with their well-curated salary structure a year before players like Sergei Bobrovsky and Cam Atkinson are up for new deals.
There’s no reason to believe Johansen won’t sign before camp, just like there’s no reason to suspect that an RFA trying to get as much out of a team as he can means he won’t remain with that team when his bridge contract is up. Right, Mr. Subban?
A few more teeth may need to be pulled, an ego or two will have to be stroked, compromise will need to be the name of the game, but eventually a deal will get done here. Both sides have too much at stake for anything less to occur.
Brandon Sutter's best hockey is in front of him. At just 25 years of age, he didn't have the biggest statistical season last year—he scored 13 goals and added 13 assists—but there is no doubting that he has the tools to take his game to the next level.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, he molded himself into a reliable third-line center, at times tantalizing the team with upside. And he showed up in a big way during the postseason, scoring five goals and adding two assists in 13 games, a nice return that the team will hope to see him replicate this upcoming season.
But first, the team has to work out a new contract with the restricted free agent. From Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Signing RFA Brandon Sutter is last pressing offseason matter for #Penguins, although other moves not out of question.— Shelly Anderson (@pgshelly) July 31, 2014
GM Rutherford said talks with Brandon Sutter "moving in the right direction. By next week we might be able to get something done." #Penguins— Shelly Anderson (@pgshelly) July 31, 2014
Working something out seems inevitable, indeed, and makes plenty of sense. Sutter has room to grow, and he's already proven he can be a 20-goal scorer in his career, as he was in 2009-10 when he notched 21 goals and 19 assists.
The Penguins don't need him to be a superstar; they just need him to be a reliable anchor on the third line. And it's a role he should be able to fill for them admirably for many, many years to come.