Analyzing Prolonged NHL Contract Negotiations

In the 2013-14 offseason, there have been a ton of contracts being negotiated and signed. As always, there have been some long, drawn-out contract negotiations and just some flat out messy situations. Here’s a look at some of the most notable prolonged NHL contract negotiations.

 Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets, drafted 4th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft.


Johansen has been one of the most publicized contract situations for this summer. The former fourth overall pick has been highly regarded as one of the top prospects in the Blue Jackets organization.

In 2013-14, he finally showed the CBJ brass why they made the right decision by drafting him. He put up 33 goals and 30 assists for 63 points in 82 games. He had two seasons prior to this, and he struggled mightily, notching 33 points in 107 games.

His entry-level contract ended this summer, and Jarmo Kekäläinen wasted no time trying to get him signed, unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out like that. Johansen has an agent who is well known within the NHL circle, Kurt Overhardt. He is most known for getting players lucrative contracts by threatening to let that player sit out until the team gives in, and he is at it once again.

Johansen is looking for what seems to be at least $6+ million a year, over a long term, while Kekäläinen is looking to sign a bridge deal with Johansen, which is becoming the norm for young stars. It ensures that this player was not a one-hit-wonder, giving the team some cap space to breathe for two or three seasons before locking up that star to a long term contract, but Johansen and Overhardt want to skip that part completely, getting straight to the big money.

The Blue Jackets organization is standing strong and is getting prepared to play without Johansen. This is an already ugly situation and has the potential to turn even uglier. Johansen has also reportedly received offers from the KHL, giving him near or at the price he wants. While it’s sure that everyone in the Columbus organization would much rather have Johansen under contract and playing, there is a principle here: He had one good season, after two struggling seasons.

If you are a repeated thirty-goal scorer in the NHL, chances are you will get paid north of $5 million, but this is where Johansen and Overhardt are getting seriously confused. He is not a repeated thirty-goal scorer, he is a one-time 33-goal scorer. Does one good season equal $6+ million?

Numerous articles and hockey analysts agree that Johansen is aiming too high, and would be better off signing a bridge deal, continuing his production, and then breaking the bank on a long term contract. Until then though, it seems as if Johansen will either be sitting the season out or packing up for the KHL. It’s also worth noting that if Johansen does not sign by December 1st 2014, he cannot play this season, for any team.

P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens, drafted 43rd overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.



Subban has been a huge part of the Canadiens defense corps since breaking into the line-up late in the 2009-10 season, putting up two points in as many games. He then played all fourteen playoffs games for the Habs, notching eight points, and ever since then, he has been widely known as one of the best defenseman for the Habs in this generation. Of course with that responsibility, comes a great price.

After that playoff run, he played out the last two years of his entry-level contract with Montreal, which ended in 2012-13. This first round of negotiations with Subban and Montreal GM Marc Bergevin was a tough one, with Subban wanting a long-term contract. Bergevin finally convinced Subban to take a bridge deal, only after he sat out the preseason and a couple of games into the lockout-shortened season.

It made no impact on his ever so raising game though, as he notched 38 points in 42 games, earning him the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best all-around defenseman in the league.

In 2013-14, Subban then put up his career-best of 53 points in 82 games. He was also a force in the Habs playoffs run to the Eastern Conference Finals, posting 14 points in 17 games. After the Habs were eliminated in Game 6 versus the Rangers, Bergevin got to work on his team, with the NHL Draft coming up and then free agency.

Almost every day following free agency opening up, there was an interview, rumor, or article regarding Subban’s situation and just what the future looked like. With Subban being an RFA again, this gave Bergevin and Subban time to work out a deal that suited both sides. However, this time turned into almost a two-month stalemate in negotiations, complete with an arbitration hearing.

They finally put the ink to paper one day after the hearing, signing a huge 8-year, $72 million contracts. This deal places Subban as the highest-paid player in Montreal Canadiens history. It also ensures that Subban will be with the team for the next eight years, giving the Habs the offensive juggernaut they need manning the point.

Torey Krug, Boston Bruins, undrafted.


Krug was an undrafted 21-year-old NCAA player when the Bruins signed him to a three-year deal. Since then, he has improved and impressed the Bruins brass. He made his debut in 2012-13, playing one game and registering one assist. He was then a regular in the Bruins playoff run, dressing for 15 games and notching 4 goals and 2 assists.

He played well enough that the Bruins cleared a spot for him for the 2013-14 season. Krug responded to the playing time, posting 40 points in 79 games, placing him 4th in voting for the Calder Trophy for best rookie of the year in the NHL.

Enter the 2013-14 offseason. The Bruins obviously want him signed, but they are currently over the salary cap by 800,000 and they have still not made any moves to accommodate the cap space for re-signing Krug or another RFA standout Reilly Smith.

What are the Bruins waiting for? All they need to do is ship off Johnny Boychuk, who does have a modified NTC but can supply a 15-team list, and possibly another forward with a $1 million or more cap hit.

Krug is a big part of the Bruins’s future, along with Smith, who scored 20 goals in his first season with the Bruins. He has already received offers from the KHL and if the Bruins don’t act soon, they may lose Krug and possibly Smith as well. Hopefully, they wake up and smell the coffee soon. Like real soon.

Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators, drafted 11th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft.


This contract took a while but was finalized a few days ago on September 25th. The Preds signed Ellis to a five-year deal worth $12.5 million. This is a great deal for the Preds, giving them an unbelievable defense core for a while, with Shea Weber, Seth Jones, and Roman Josi as their top two pairings. Crazy, right?


Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild, drafted 161st overall in the 2009 NHL Draft.

Kuemper came into the Wild organization late in 2012-13, appearing in six games but only finishing three, then making two starts in the playoffs posting an .879 save percentage.

The next season in 2013-14, he made it count, posting somewhat better numbers: 26 games, 12 wins, 8 losses, and 4 OT losses, along with 2 shutouts. He also impressed in the playoffs, before he suffered a concussion in Game 7 versus Colorado and couldn’t finish the game.

This summer, as an RFA, he looked for a better contract and more money. The Wild organization refused to pay as he only had 32 games under his belt, hardly enough to warrant a raise. The standoff continued until the middle of September when the Wild got the bad news that Josh Harding would be out for the next two to three months, as he fractured a toe in a non-hockey related incident. Kuemper was then signed almost immediately to a 2-year, $2.5 million deal.

Kevin Hayes, Chicago Blackhawks, drafted 24th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Hayes was a big name in the NCAA, as he had just finished ripping up goalies everywhere in the college circuit, notching 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games for Boston College in 2013-14. This offseason, he was still an RFA within the Hawks organization, but they regrettably had no space for him, both money and body-wise.

They reportedly tried to get him under a contract, but he declined, waiting for his own free agency day, August 15th 2014. It only took him five days to choose his destination, as the New York Rangers scooped him up on a two-year entry-level deal with a $900,000 cap hit (but his bonuses are what make his contract worth $7.5 million over that period) on August 20th.


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