With rumors that Ryan Johansen may be on the move from Columbus not dying down, here are eight potential trade partners for the Blue Jackets and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen that could work in both directions.
It’s no secret that Nashville has a lot of the pieces of a championship team, but no number one center and no dynamic offensive threat. Ryan Johansen could fit in very nicely in Nashville and change the complexion of David Poile’s forward group.
The problem? That Poile said last week that he’s not that interested in altering his defensive depth to upgrade at forward. With the defensive issues in Columbus, they’ll definitely want a blue liner knowing that Nashville has an embarrassment of riches there. Poile said as much to The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan, indicating that when he makes a call, the GM at the other end is asking about defensemen. If Poile won’t move Shea Weber, Roman Josi or Seth Jones, could Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm be enough? (Ekholm’s contract is pretty great.)
If Johansen isn’t moved closer to the deadline, these two may be able to come together a little more with Nashville if they aren’t able to find a solution elsewhere. It may be ideal for both teams. The Blue Jackets’ blue line is a source of many of their problems. It’s thin and lacks a number one defender.
With Bob McKenzie reporting recently that Buffalo expressed interest in Stamkos over the summer, there’s a chance that they could have interest in Johansen. At 23, he’s the right age for this burgeoning group. There’s a bit of a log jam at center if you bring in Johansen and potential cap issues not too far down the road (plus you’ve acquired two players who have been notoriously difficult in contract negotiations).
If Buffalo still has serious interest in pursuing Stamkos via trade or free agency, despite having acquired Ryan O’Reilly, that may stop them from putting in a serious bid on Johansen. It’s also not entirely clear what they’d move to Columbus in exchange for Johansen when their needs are similar. They have a lot of draft picks and some nice prospects, but would that be enough?
Florida looks like they’ve put together a team that could finally make a run at the postseason. Their biggest problem is a top-end scoring forward. Johansen could solve that problem.
Their problem is a bit like the problem in Buffalo, in that it’s not 100 percent clear that they’re great trading partners. Florida’s blue line is decent, but they aren’t in a place to move a defenseman that’s on par with Johansen. Maybe a package involving a draft pick, a prospect and a young forward like Brandon Pirri or maybe some of the younger fringe guys are of interest like Dylan Olsen, Rocco Grimaldi and Connor Brickley. A call could be made, but the puzzle pieces just might not match.
The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo said early on in the Johansen madness that GM Chuck Fletcher made the call to get the price. The Wild are a competitor and do need a top-end first line center. Mikko Koivu is having a great year that should have him in the Selke conversation going into the holiday break. The first line center, Mikael Granlund, has turned it on lately, but hasn’t delivered on his promise and was slow to find his game this season.
The Wild have five very good defenseman on the team and a number of promising prospects in Mike Reilly, Gustav Olofsson and Christian Folin. With the team locking up Jared Spurgeon to a four-year contract extension this week, it looks like the Wild are dealing from a position of depth and security. If they deal one of their top four defensemen — Ryan Suter (has NMC), Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Spurgeon — all of them come with term. It helps the Wild’s cause. If Kekalainen knows this group well enough, a deal for Brodin might make a lot of sense for Columbus.
Vancouver is in a difficult position. They aren’t playing like a playoff team. Yet, they’re in playoff position despite a negative goal differential and having Tuesday’s win bump them up from having the fewest wins in the NHL. The Pacific Division is a rotting carton of goat milk. If the Canucks make it into the postseason they’ll need to try and compete, because they aren’t going to be getting a whole lot in the draft.
That could make them interested in Johansen even though they’re in rebuild mode, focusing on young guys like Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen, Linden Vey and Ben Hutton. However, they might not have the right fit to deal with the Blue Jackets. They’re thin on the blue line and if they want to stay true to the organizational plan, it’s tough to deal out the young players they’re building around.
Besides some stats saying that they Coyotes shouldn’t plan on being a Stanley Cup competitor this season, the ‘Yotes have discussed acquiring a goaltender, which indicates they want to make a run and not tank for Arizona-native Auston Matthews. At a minimum, they don’t want to dispirit a young team that’s learning a lot through some success early in the year.
Could the Coyotes be in on Johansen to add some center depth to a team where all of their center depth organizationally is in prospects? They could move toward accelerating the rebuild a bit like Buffalo did last summer. But that might be a plan for the summer rather than before the trade deadline, when they could miss the postseason and hurt their odds of getting Matthews by acquiring Johansen. Though, if the deal is there, it’s tough to pass up a number on center on the chance that you tank hard enough to be in on Matthews and win the lottery.
This could be a better fit than most. Calgary needs another top six center besides Sean Monahan. Sam Bennett still looks a ways from being ready to move to center and their other centers — though not terrible — aren’t top six material. If Columbus needs a forward in return, this might not work. But maybe a package from Calgary does the trick for Kekalainen.
Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton are probably untouchable. But what about Dennis Wideman or Kris Russell, along with a young-ish forward like Mikael Backlund? If Columbus is still feeling shaky in net — Joonas Korpisalo is just 21 and Curtis McElhinney hasn’t been getting it done — the Flames could package in one of their 6,000 goaltenders that has some upside like Joni Ortio, Kevin Poulin or Jon Gillies (though Gillies is probably not someone the team is looking to move and they need to ensure their future in net with no NHL goaltender on contract for next year).
This might be a situation that Kekalainen wants to avoid, but there could be a nice trade partner inside the division. The Flyers are starting to turn things around and need a shot in the arm. They’ve got struggling centers, RFAs like Brayden Schenn and a ton of defensive prospects that could be alluring to Columbus.
If you add an Ivan Provorov or Travis Sanheim to Columbus, the future of their blue line starts to look pretty promising. Also, doesn’t Sean Couturier seem like the exact kind of play that John Tortorella loves?
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.