The Columbus Blue Jackets have not done particularly well in terms of holding on to free agent players in recent years and now it sounds like one of the most important negotiations in the franchises' recent history has come to a halt.
According to a recent report from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch, talks between restricted free agent forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Blue Jackets have stalled. The news was confirmed by Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who to his credit did not appear to be overly concerned about the fact that he hasn't so much as talked to Dubois' agent in some time.
"It’s funny how everyone’s worried about RFAs, because I’m not worried at all," said the Jackets GM as per Arace. "They get done when they get done."
Although this is no doubt a negotiation tactic on the part of Kekalainen, there's good reason for him to be relatively confident in his current situation. Dubois barely has any leverage, he is of course the team's number one centerman and no doubt their center of the future, but short of signing an offer sheet or holding out at the start of next season there are very few weapons in his arsenal. On top of that with over $12 million in projected cap space for next season, Kekalainen is in a position where he could match any offer sheet that would be presented.
Kekalainen has also shown a willingness to drag negotiations down to the wire in the past as well, having struck a deal with Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski just day prior to the start of training camp.
"The Werenski contract got done right before training camp last year,” Kekalainen said. “Why should there be any worry? I’m not worried."
There's one other factor to consider here and that is the current free agency of New York Islander Mathew Barzal. Barzal is considered to be the top free agent center and like Dubois he is also restricted. Some believe that there is a hold right now as team's wait to see how Barzal will set the market with his new deal, something that could directly impact the negotiations between the Jackets and Dubois.