The Pros and Cons of Trading Ryan Johansen

Trade rumors are spreading across the hockey world like wildfire, and of course the Columbus Blue Jackets are no exception.

Take any rumor with a grain of salt as anyone with a Twitter account can proclaim themselves an “insider”. But a particular rumor gained some traction when the well-respected Darren Dreger stated that the Blue Jackets were listening to calls on Ryan Johansen. They were not actively shopping him, but not exactly slamming the phone down either.

So what would a possible Johansen trade need to look like, and what is the risk versus reward?

The Risk

In early November I posted a Twitter poll asking fans if they thought that the Blue Jackets should trade Johansen. The final results were closer than I expected with 44% Yes and 56% No. After the Dreger comments surfaced I asked the same question with a little twist. The results ended up with 27% Yes, 53% No, and 20% Price Too High.

In trading Johansen, the Blue Jackets would risk alienating a fan base who love their “Joey”. He may not wear the “C” on the front of his jersey, but he is indeed the face of the franchise. On more than one occasion I have spoken with less-than-casual hockey fans who think that icing is something on a cake, but knew the name Ryan Johansen and who he played for. It takes a special kind of player to gain that kind notoriety.

Columbus already traded one franchise player in Rick Nash, so what would trading another do to fan morale?

Let’s not forget the on-ice reasons. In the absence of Johansen, who would fill his role of first-line center, and primary offensive weapon? Brandon Dubinsky is perfect for the role he is in. Alexander Wennberg? Maybe, but not yet.

Columbus has a lot of good wingers in the system, but not a center that can take the role that Johansen is expected to fill. The Blue Jackets would not get that in return so they would be, in essence, creating a void. For all of his slumping ways, Johansen is leading the team in points after a quarter of the season is over.

The Reward

To date Johansen has been one of the biggest underachievers on one of the NHL’s most underachieving teams. As good as Johansen has been in his career, you have to wonder if there is still a lot more to be gotten from him. A change of scenery may be a positive for him, while fresh faces may be good for Columbus. The potential defensive upgrade, and overall depth that would come in return would be invaluable.

The Blue Jackets chose to forgo upgrading one of the statistically worst defensive units in the NHL in favor of acquiring Brandon Saad. That decision has gone a long way towards the situation that the team is in right now. Trading Johansen may be the only way to acquire the necessary assets to balance this team the way that it needs to be.

What Assets Need to be Gotten in Return?

When I created the second poll, I included the option of “Price Too High”. The reason is that with the value that Johansen holds on and off the ice, the Blue Jackets need to get an overwhelming offer.

General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen should start the conversation with an asking price of a top-pairing defenseman, first-round pick, NHL ready top-six center, prospect, and that the other team takes David Clarkson’s contract. This price is likely the beginning and the end of a conversation. It is a huge request, but if the Blue Jackets don’t get the perfect (and I do mean perfect) return for Johansen, its game over.

I am going to stop short of naming actual players, but you get the point. Maybe Columbus could swap one slumping center for another and trade for Sidney Crosby.

Calm down, I’m kidding. That would be as likely to happen as pigs flying…or John Tortorella giving Pittsburgh a compliment. One is about as likely to happen as the other.

Johansen and Tortorella

I said from the first day that John Tortorella was hired in Columbus that the biggest beneficiary would be Johansen, and I still believe that. Yes, there have been interesting things happening between the two, such as Tortorella calling Johansen “out of shape”, benchings, and fourth-line demotions. But tough love is exactly what Johansen needs, and if there is a coach that can force the potential out of him, it’s Tortorlla.

Here is a piece from by Dan Rosen where Tortorella speaks about Johansen and his development.

Under “Tortz” the Blue Jackets have already shown great improvement, and in time Johansen will too. It’s just a matter of if management can wait that long. Nobody needs to remind them that you don’t want to give up on your young stars. Just ask Boston how the Tyler Seguin trade has worked out for them.

Until next time.