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In making case, Johansen’s agent stresses importance of top centers

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 25: Ryan Johansen #36 of the Columbus Blue Jackets takes a shot on goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on September 25, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Blue Jackets 3-1. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Yesterday, Blue Jackets president John Davidson argued (and argued rather vehemently) that restricted free agent Ryan Johansen, as represented by agent Kurt Overhardt, had no right to be asking for the kind of money that an unrestricted free agent, or even an RFA with arbitration rights, had the right to ask for.

Davidson’s argument, essentially, was that the CBA gives the Jackets leverage over Johansen, and that the Jackets would be foolish not to use it.

“What are we supposed to do, give in when we have rights?” said Davidson. “It doesn’t make sense.”

But, obviously, the Johansen camp doesn’t see it that way. And today on TSN 1050 radio in Toronto, Overhardt put forth a number of his own arguments, while hammering home the importance of the position that Johansen plays.

“If you look at the game down the middle – you look at a team that won the Stanley Cup twice in the last three years (Kings) – you look at their depth down the middle,” said Overhart. “Well, why did they beat the teams that they beat? Unbelievable centers.

“Then you look what happened this summer. You saw Dallas upgrade at center. You saw Anaheim upgrade at center. You saw St. Louis upgrade at center. Why are they doing it? Well, you have to have two pivots (centers).

“And I don’t care if that player is a restricted player or whether that player is an unrestricted player. You’ve seen several players over the years who are still restricted, or finishing restricted deals, who have been paid.”

Of course, Davidson could just as easily go back and argue the importance of having a top defensemen in winning the Stanley Cup (Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara, etc.), and then point to the two-year, $5.75 million “bridge” contract that P.K. Subban accepted before signing his big contract this summer.

Which helps show why this dispute has yet to be settled. Both sides have strong arguments to make, and both sides have dug themselves in. And without a tool like binding arbitration, the Johansen camp is left with just two options, other than accepting what the Jackets are offering.

1. Don’t play.

2. Seek out and sign an offer sheet.

On that second option, when asked how his client would respond to an offer sheet, Overhardt would only say, “Well, we’ll have to see.”

But before Jackets fans really start to worry, Overhardt also said that Johansen wants to be in Columbus, and that this whole thing is just a matter of banging out a deal.

Related: Jackets reveal Johansen offers — including an eight year, $46M deal