The hockey world lit up on Wednesday, in many ways.
The biggest of which involved a straight-up trade involving star players. The Columbus Blue Jackets sent star-center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators in exchange for star-defenseman Seth Jones.
In hindsight, we should have seen this trade coming from miles away. It’s easy to see the logic behind this move on both sides.
On the Predators’ side, they get a legit, number one center in Johansen. At 6-foot-3 and about 225 pounds, he is a prototypical NHL top-line center. He has elite offensive instincts, both with his shot and his play making. For someone his size, he has great hands.
Johansen is also a former 30-goal scorer. He scored 33 goals in 2013-14, the year the Blue Jackets made the playoffs. He followed that up with a career season in points, finishing with 26 goals and 71 points. In a hotly contested race in the Central Division, Johansen can certainly help the Predators make a second-half run toward the Stanley Cup playoffs.
On the Blue Jackets’ side, they get a number one defenseman that they have desperately needed for some time. More importantly, they get a right-handed defenseman to help balance out their share of lefties. He handles the puck well and has extremely good vision.
Jones tallied 27 points and took just 20 penalty minutes in playing all 82 games last season for the Predators. He also averaged 19:52 of ice time per game. He’s the anchor the Blue Jackets have longed for.
So how did we get here? Why were the Blue Jackets willing to part with a number one center? How could the Predators part with a stud defenseman? A closer look at this situation reveals that to us.
How This Deal Came About
My, how the times have changed. Remember when teams called the Blue Jackets about Johansen? That’s when general manager Jarmo Kekalainen famously said “click” to all those who asked. Johansen, at that time, was untouchable. The Blue Jackets had their center for the future.
Then, things started to slowly fall apart. There was the contract saga of last season. There was nights of inconsistent play. Head coach John Tortorella this season said Johansen was out of shape. Management’s stance changed as a result of this cumulative effect. There was a sense of frustration in what management saw out of him.
Then came the demotion to the third or fourth lines. Then came a healthy scratch, for someone who is a fourth line fixture (Jared Boll). The Blue Jackets needed defense. They were willing to part with Johansen in the right situation.
The Predators have many good defensemen. That has been the staple of their team for many seasons. Players like Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis have performed well. Jones has played well, but wasn’t really going to get a chance as a number one defenseman for sometime.
The Predators needed a number one center. GM David Poile saw this opportunity to pull the trigger to get someone who could potentially help give a jolt to their offense. The Predators came into Wednesday tied for 13th in goals. They now have a player who is a potential top-10 scorer.
This was a good, ole’ fashioned hockey trade that fulfilled needs on both sides. I would give a slight edge to the Predators, however. They still have a solid defensive core, while gaining a number one center. The Blue Jackets have a stud defenseman, but now are lacking more on offense.
Measuring The Impacts
The Blue Jackets can now instantly insert Jones to the top pair on the right side paired with Ryan Murray. These two have the potential to anchor the blue line in Columbus for many years. Consider that they can now move Jack Johnson and David Savard to the second pair, and you see how much impact this move has. This team will be hard to score on moving forward, especially once Sergei Bobrovsky gets back to health. Oh, and Zachary Werenski will join them soon.
Offensively, losing Johansen hurts. Losing a 70-point scorer is certainly not easy to replace. What do the Blue Jackets have left after this move?
Brandon Dubinsky, for now, will assume the number one center role. Alexander Wennberg will assume second-line center. He is intriguing. Was part of Kekalainen’s thinking Wennberg’s emergence? He’s played well, and certainly deserves more ice time. He will get that now, most likely with Scott Hartnell and Brandon Saad. That’s still a pretty good second line.
What will be intriguing is how the Blue Jackets address this gaping hole at center, now? Will they make a trade? Will Auston Matthews fall to them? Imagine how scary they become if they get him. Given they are still in last place, you’d think more trades are coming. But at least the defense is looking really good.
The Predators will insert Johansen on the top line right away. They’ll also get a major boost on the power play, given Johansen’s offensive prowess. If he continues to mature and reaches his potential, the Predators become scary good.
At the end of the day, it’s a good deal for both sides. They each had glaring needs filled in massive ways. The Jackets have a legitimate defense. The Predators have a major boost down the middle. It will be curious to revisit this trade later. It is certainly one of Kekalainen’s biggest moves since becoming GM. This could help define his time in Columbus. He needed to make a move. He did it. Was it the right move?
It’s way too early to tell. But the logic is certainly understandable.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.