Poile Delivers, Can Johansen?
By @GreekGoalie35 @brandon_felder
Nashville’s hockey twitterverse was at DEFCON 1 Wednesday when reports started breaking about a blockbuster deal involving the Preds and Blue Jackets. After much speculation regarding who would be included in the trade, the former division rivals each parted with potential superstars as the Predators sent 21-year old defenseman Seth Jones to Columbus for 23-year old center Ryan Johansen.
The initial responses to the trade have been mixed amongst the fans I’ve encountered. On the one hand, I’ve heard those that are upset the team gave up the former 4th overall pick in 2013. On the other, Nashville has finally acquired that elusive top center they and the fans have been craving since the team’s inception. By the way, he was also the 4th overall selection 3 years before Jones.
The question now becomes whether Johansen will be that true top-line center that the franchise, quite frankly, has lacked since its inception. By the time Johansen reached 21, he had a 33-goal season under his belt, which would tie the franchise record for goals in a season. His 71 points last year for a bad Columbus team would rank 5th in Preds history in a single season. He’s amassed 26 points this season for the worst team in the NHL, while being in John Tortorella’s doghouse. That would place him tied for 2nd on Nashville this year. At 6’3, 223lbs, he also offers plenty of size to cause problems for opposing defenders and netminders alike. He will join the team for practice and will be in the lineup Friday in Denver to face the Avalanche.
Who coach Laviolette pairs him up with remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that he gives the Preds options and really makes this a team with 3 groups that have the ability to score. You can now slot Ribeiro and his distribution ability into the 2nd line center role where he belongs. This also pushes Fisher into a 3rd line which suits him well at age 35. Fisher was just taking on too many minutes, which has significantly impacted his offensive output. The role of Calle Jarnkrok as a potential top six forward will be interesting to watch as well. He’s played his best hockey at center this year, but with the new found depth at that position, it’s safe to say he’ll be pushed out to the wing on the 2nd or 3rd unit.
I’ve been on record as saying I would prefer to lose Ellis as opposed to Jones if a deal was to go down. Ellis is smaller than Jones and what you see is what you get. He has essentially peaked whereas Jones’ best years are clearly still in front of him. The positive is that we keep Ellis at a very favorable price tag of $2.5M/yr. Jones becomes a restricted free agent after this season and Columbus will have to pony up the dough to keep him. With half the season left, Jones finally has a chance to prove himself as a top pair defenseman in line for a big payday.
Despite being hamstrung by a budget every year, Poile usually finds a way to assemble a team to compete year in and year out. There were many that were shocked when the trade went down, which I really didn’t understand. Fisher, Neal, Jarnkrok, Forsberg and now Johansen were acquired via trade. If you include Gaustad in that mix, that’s half of your starting forwards which were brought on from another team. That squashes any ill-conceived notion that Poile isn’t committed to winning or is afraid to pull off a big move.
Well Nashville… it happened. We finally got our wish of a number one center to contribute offensively and get this team over the hump. It came at a price, but if you consider Nashville didn’t give up anybody off their top two defensive pairings to land a talent such as Johansen, you have to look at it as a win.
Rest assured I will be on twitter discussing this at length, so follow me @GreekGoalie35 to talk about this and anything else across the NHL.
Now, let’s see what fellow PredneckNation contributor @brandon_felder has to say about this monumental trade.
The Preds cashed in the big chip for the one type of player many have said is the “missing piece”. A top line center is pricey, not just monetarily, but to get one via trade it costs a piece that’s also coveted. Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen is a trade both clubs probably fretted over. Young players with elements of unseen potential are not easy to trade away. Jones has the potential to be a top 2 D-man. Johansen showed last year he can take on a 1C role and perform.
The reality is the Preds have finally acquired the top line center they’ve really never had. The cost is acceptable when dealing from a position of strength in your system. If Johansen returns to his goal scoring form (33 last year) then this could be the boost Nashville needs this season. If not this year, it still greatly improves their chances next year.
The Preds finally have someone to match up directly with Toews, Seguin, or Stastny. They can roll a top line and no one snicker. I am so excited to see Forsberg, Johansen, and Neal go up the ice. That’s a top line to be proud of. Pred fans that are unhappy with the trade need to remember that in this business, winning at any cost matters most. David Poile did his job on this one. Now Peter Laviolette and crew need to get things turned in the right direction to secure a playoff spot. Then things can get real fun.
What a time to be alive Pred fans!