Saturday night was the first night that Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones played each other since the big blockbuster trade involving them on Jan. 6. Johansen and the Nashville Predators have been one of the hottest teams in the league, while Jones and the Columbus Blue Jackets are in the race to land the number-one pick at the 2016 NHL Draft.
The Predators routed the Blue Jackets en route to a 5-1 victory, and “RyJo” made his impact felt with an assist on James Neal’s 30th goal of the season and even stuck up for Mattias Ekholm by getting in the face of Boone Jenner.
Jones had a quieter night and did not make the score sheet, but had three hits and two blocked shots for Columbus. The young defenseman did get cheered on his return to the Bridgestone Arena.
Now that the game has passed, it’s a good time to look at how both players have done since the big deal.
The Ryan Johansen Side
The Vancouver, British Columbia native made a quick impression by scoring in his first shift with the Preds against the Avalanche. The center did go cold for a stretch, but Nashville picked up confidence and is one of the hottest teams in the league.
Johansen has seven goals and 20 assists in his 37 games, but he’s been a big help in sparking the offense in the team’s recent surge. He’s played a big hand in Neal’s 30-goal season that gives the team two 30-plus goal scorers for the first time since 2005-06.
Despite the fact he’s enjoyed his time in Nashville, there were some people annoyed with his recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch. In the Q&A, Johansen still wished that things would have worked out and that he was still in Columbus.
I’ll say this: I wish I was still a Blue Jacket. Let me make sure I’m wording this the right way (pauses). I wish we didn’t start the season 0-8. I wish we were in the playoffs. I wish we had a great year. I wish we were all still together. But that’s professional sports. It happens, and when a team struggles there are trades. Maybe I felt like it wouldn’t be me that’s going (to get traded), but it was. I loved more than anything else in the world being a Blue Jacket.
However, there is no controversy as he said that he loves being a Predator and called the organization “first-class.” Some will give Johansen stick about wanting it to work out, but there should be no blame him for wanting the team that drafted him to succeed.
The Seth Jones Side
The Arlington, Texas native is finally getting prime minutes as a top-pair defenseman. He’s picked up two goals and 15 assists in 35 games. Jones is a minus-seven, but that’s attributed to the how bad Columbus has been this season.
Jones leads the club with 24 minutes, 27 seconds since the deal. The glut of quality defensemen in Nashville kept him from being a top blue-liner, but he wanted to grow and take on more responsibility.
Columbus coach John Tortorella has praised Jones’ play so far and former Nashville teammate Shea Weber told Adam Vingan of The Tennessean that’s been impressed with his former teammate.
“He’s been good,” Weber said. “I’ve had a chance to watch him on TV a fair bit, and any chance I’ve seen him, he’s played well. It was a tough battle here. With our defense being so deep, it was tough to get anybody a lot of minutes, to be honest. I think with him moving, he’s got more responsibility and he’s done well since.”
The big concern is if the team can manage to re-sign him once he becomes a restricted free agent in the offseason. If the cap does not go up, Columbus could have trouble finding money to keep Jones or being able to match an offer sheet.
The trade has worked out well so far. The Predators have their franchise center that they’ve never had. If Jones does re-sign, the Blue Jackets will have their cornerstone defenseman. It’s one of the rare deals where there does not seem to be a loser. However, that rests on if Jones stays in Columbus.