Should Ryan Johansen be Dealt to Vancouver?

The alleged rumblings continued in Columbus between star forward Ryan Johansen and head coach John Tortorella, when Johansen was a healthy scratch in the Blue Jackets’ 7-5 road win over Arizona on Thursday night. The decision followed a loss to Dallas three days earlier, where Johansen had a season-low 11:03 in ice time and was benched for the third period.

It’s the second time Tortorella has scratched his top center from the lineup this season, which has led to an increase in speculation of whether or not the Blue Jackets may be looking to trade Johansen. Bob McKenzie was on TSN radio in Vancouver on Thursday, and said Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen is likely taking calls from teams on Johansen, as well as making them.

While there’s likely more than what meets the eye behind why the Blue Jackets would look to shop Johansen, the former fourth overall pick in 2010 is a native of Vancouver. So if the 23 year-old were to be traded, would Johansen be interested in playing for his hometown team, and would the Canucks want to acquire his services, based on the depth they lack in their lineup right now?

Why Vancouver for Johansen?

Prior to debuting with Columbus, Johansen had played all of his hockey on the West Coast. Johansen, who was born in Vancouver, played his minor, major-midget and junior-A hockey in BC, before two stellar seasons with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, where he totaled 65 goals and 161 points in 134 games. Having immediate family and a track record of success in the area would likely be fuel to fire for Johansen.

And with the current state of Vancouver’s lineup, Johansen would likely play just as large of a role with the Canucks as with the Blue Jackets, and with less pressure.

The one-time NHL all-star Johansen would provide a one-two punch for the Canucks at center, with both he and Henrik Sedin who are suited as number-one’s – similar to when Vancouver had both Henrik and a younger Ryan Kesler down the middle.

With Brandon Sutter injured until likely mid-January, the Canucks are ghostly thin down the middle past Henrik. Young forwards Bo Horvat and Jared McCann have largely served as the second and third line centers, respectively, with depth forward Adam Cracknell as the fourth line pivot. Henrik has reportedly been playing through an injury, and life for the Canucks without Sutter or their captain in the lineup is a scary thing to think about. Acquiring Johansen would create tons of possibilities for the Canucks roster and provide a strong backbone for the team in their rebuilding stage.

Assets at Stake to Acquire Johansen

What’s worth the risk isn’t always worth the reward in NHL trades, and there’s certainly risks involved for Canucks GM Jim Benning and his team should they attempt to acquire Johansen – not just in the assets they would need to move, but in the player they’d be acquiring as well.

It’s likely that for Kekäläinen and the Blue Jackets, the Canucks’ first round pick this year would need to be in play. As of December 18th, Vancouver sat 26th in league standings, and if the team has any chance to draft first next spring, then Benning wouldn’t want to part ways with that pick. Of course, this would be a much clearer picture closer to the trade deadline (besides, no one should be heavily scoreboard watching at Christmas).

So if the deal were to get done between the Canucks and Blue Jackets without Vancouver’s 2016 first round pick, they would need to sell a lot of potential to pick up Johansen.

To make room down the middle in the Canucks lineup, it’s likely that McCann or Horvat would have to be a player going the other way in this situation. Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser or Hunter Shinkaruk are three young wingers who may fit the mold as well for Columbus.

Blue Jackets President John Davidson had an interesting perspective when asked by Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch about Johansen’s situation with the team:

“The situation is we’re in a position where we’re trying to upgrade our team. If we can make a deal – I don’t care who it is – we’re sitting at the bottom of the heap right now. Unless the contract stipulates otherwise, everybody’s tradeable. That’s hockey. It could be Joey or it could be anybody else. If we feel it’s the right deal, we make the deal.” – John Davidson, Blue Jackets President.

Clearly offers for Johansen aren’t being refuted by the Blue Jackets organization. It almost sounds like teams should be jumping all over trade offers for the star 23 year-old; almost.

Sure, Tortorella has a tendency to use players as examples for his methods of coaching madness – who could forget goalie Roberto Luongo not being started by Torts in the 2014 Heritage Classic, then promptly being traded two days later.

In Columbus, Johansen has become Tortorella’s example-maker to an extent, but it may not be completely unwarranted. McKenzie’s said it best in part of his interview on TSN radio in Vancouver, where he talked about the team’s stance with their star center.

“This is not the first time the issue of Johansen’s commitment, or dedication, or compatibility has come up. The organization has had a number of occasions since Johansen was drafted and signed there that they’ve felt like that he’s not fit enough, or he doesn’t work hard enough, or he doesn’t apply himself consistently enough… I think there’s a level of frustration on the part of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ management that has nothing to do with the John Tortorella factor”, McKenzie said on Johansen’s situation.

Johansen could be an all-star forward for his hometown Canucks for a longtime and accelerate the team’s rebuild, but potentially could cost a lot of assets and cause organizational problems. Is trading for him worth the risk? You decide.

Note – Johansen is a native of Port Moody, not North Vancouver.