In what has to be considered a huge deal and one that will keep Ryan Johansen the top-line center in Nashville for the foreseeable future, the Predators inked the young pivot to an eight-year, $64 million dollar contract. It ties him with Joe Thornton as the eighth-highest paid center in the NHL.
Johansen’s new deal is also the largest contract in term and total salary that the Predators have offered a player with the exception of one — a 14-year, $110 million contract for former captain Shea Weber. Nashville matched an offer sheet with Weber and eventually traded him. Johansen likely won’t be going anywhere for a long time.
The Reason for the Deal
An eight-year contract is a long contract to give a player and the maximum allowed by a team. Johansen was an asset the Predators never wanted to see go elsewhere and the deal represents their faith in his ability. It was simply a matter of getting the best value possible, especially after a very crafty summer by general manager David Poile that kept a player like Viktor Arvidsson on the team at a value deal.
Arvidsson, along with Filip Forsberg, were centered by Johansen for most of the last season and the group formed a dangerous top line. It was a trio that would lead the Predators into the postseason and through the first couple rounds. If not for an unfortunate injury, Johansen could have led that line to their first-ever Stanley Cup. Instead, the team fell just short, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Predators playoff success and Johansen’s production in a shorter window undoubtedly played a role in negotiations and would have been a key factor in Johansen’s desire to stay.
Ryan Johansen: "There's no better place to play in the NHL right now than Nashville."
We would agree with that. #Preds
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 28, 2017
$8 million per season is a large number, but not completely unexpected. As a productive player, the 24-year-old center finished 2016-17 with 14 goals and 47 assists, playing in all 82 regular season games for the Nashville Predators. In 433 career games, he has totaled 101 goals and 187 assists.
His best season came in 2013-14 when he broke out for 33 goals and 30 assists, becoming the third player in Blue Jackets’ franchise history to reach the 30-goal mark. He is coming off a three-year, $12 million contract he signed while he was with Columbus.
This new deal will set the tone around the NHL for a number of future contracts and perhaps represents the new mark for perceived first-line centers in the NHL. Most immediately impacted may be Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers. This deal gives him an instant comparable. In the not too distant future, some of the youngsters on the Toronto Maple Leafs may also find this deal helpful.
What’s the Risk?
In January 2016, the Predators acquired Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenceman Seth Jones. It was a straight one-for-one trade in hockey that isn’t often seen in the NHL and it came after a bit of uncertainty as to where Johansen was headed in the Blue Jackets organization.
The trade has arguably been good for both teams and clearly, Johansen has proven his worth with the Predators. They believe he’s their current and future first-line center. Indications are strong he’ll only improve and the Predators had plenty of cap room to make the deal.
It’s a decent gamble, it could pay off well and it affects other teams in the NHL as they negotiate future contracts. Today is a good day for the Nashville Predators. It’s an especially good day for Ryan Johansen.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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