The Nashville Predators are a first-line center away from being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. It appears that missing piece is being gift-wrapped in Columbus, right now.
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella surprisingly healthy scratched Ryan Johansen in a 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night. Johansen’s scratch comes after multiple third period benchings in previous contests. This move only added fuel to the Johansen rumor fire that started weeks ago.
From Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch:
[Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo] Kekalainen said his phone has been ringing frequently for many weeks now. The Blue Jackets were expected to be a playoff club, but are languishing at the bottom of the NHL standings.
“In this situation you have to be really careful, because everybody is trying to pick our pockets,” Kekalainen said. “They think we’re going to panic and move people just for the sake of making a change.”
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) December 17, 2015
Why the Predators Should Acquire Johansen
As previously mentioned, Johansen can make up for Nashville’s lack of a first-line center. Johansen, 23, leads the Blue Jackets in assists with 16 and is tied-for-second in points with 22 in 31 games. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder scored 71 points (26g, 45a) in 82 games last season. He is also efficient in the face-off dot, winning 52.1-percent (273-of-524) of draws.
For Nashville, they have a 4-8-3 record in their last 15 games. Ten of those losses occurred when the Predators scored two goals or less. In the past two games, the Preds have had just one goal in each. They are also last in the Central Division and ranked 20th in the league in goals for per game with 2.50. Additionally, they are 25th in faceoff win percentage with 48.5-percent.
The Predators need scoring and faceoff help, and Johansen can solve those issues.
What Will it Take?
Nashville has an abundance of defensemen. Shea Weber, Roman Josi and probably Seth Jones are off limits, which leaves Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. However, it complicates trade discussions since neither Ekholm nor Ellis have enough value for a player-for-player swap. In order to make a trade happen with Columbus, it will take a package dealing involving either Ekholm or Ellis, an additional player and a draft pick.
Ellis, 24, has a $2.5 million cap hit through 2018-19 and 13 points (2g, 11a) in 31 games. Ekholm, 25, has a $1.03 million cap hit this season but will have a $3.75 million cap hit beginning next season through 2021-22. In 32 games, Ekholm has 10 points (3g, 7a).
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.