(Source: NBCSports.com) – The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets announced the sort of franchise-changing trade that we rarely see in the modern NHL… The Blue Jackets sent No. 1 center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for defenseman Seth Jones. Contracts-wise, Jones needs a new deal as a pending RFA while Johansen is signed through 2016-17 at a $4 million cap hit. The Jones situation still must be settled.
Wednesday night’s NHL headline news was something that even the entertainment giant that is the NFL can’t say happens for their fans: the blockbuster trade. It’s exciting for the league and it’s fan base no matter who you root for. And the Johansen/Jones trade that went down is the definition of that very entertaining and intriguing blockbuster deal that will be talked about forever.
So let’s just cut to the chase. Who won the trade? My gut reaction was Columbus. My head screams Columbus. Logic says we have no idea. Yet. It may take 5 or even 10 years to find out.
What makes this trade great besides the sizzle of the names involved is that it does exactly what a big sexy trade like this is supposed to do. Both teams fill the need they have been desperately trying to fill and they do it with star power. And even though each team had to pay heavily for what they wanted, what they wanted was something they actually needed. Nashville gets their stud #1 center in Ryan Johansen and Columbus gets their top-2 legitimate defenseman in Seth Jones. Both are hard to acquire in the modern day, salary cap era, NHL.
Everyone wins in this trade. Or so they hope.
Ryan Johansen hasn’t been himself this year after putting up 30 goals as recently as the 2013-2014 season. But I don’t think I could be myself either with John “I Love To Rip My Team In The Press As Much As I Can” Tortorella as my head coach. And Seth Jones just hasn’t quite got to where everyone thought he would at this point in his career either. He’s an athletic specimen but the pieces that complete the puzzle to becoming an elite defenseman haven’t been put together yet.
I thought, and wrote just a couple weeks ago, that trading Ryan Johansen is idiotic. One of my main points to my argument was that the Blue Jackets would not get the return they’d want for Johansen because the rift between the player and organization was public knowledge, other teams would leverage that against Columbus, and the Blue Jackets wouldn’t be able to get a #1 center back in return for Johansen. I was half right. They couldn’t get some one to fill the Johansen void left in the trade no matter how comfortable they say they are with their current options at center. But Columbus did get an asset on defense that any team would take and I just didn’t think that type of return, regardless of position, would be available. I was convinced Columbus’ public woes had backed them into too deep of a corner.
But Nashville can win now and that trumped everything. They have the goalie in Pekka Rinne. They have solid wingers and the best defensive depth in the NHL, lead by superstar Roman Josi. They just needed that guy in the middle and now they may have him. If you feel a Stanley Cup is within reach, which Nashville does, then you have to make this move. You can’t win a Cup without a true #1 center.
The only other rumor floating around that could have worked like the Johansen deal to fill that center void in Nashville, had it happened, was Seth Jones to Edmonton for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Due to the emergence of Leon Draisaitl and the drafting of Connor McDavid, something is going to have to give down the middle in Edmonton. Still, I’m not sure the Oilers would have given up the Nuge for Jones though.
So if I’m calling it today based off of the current play of both players then I’d say both teams really do win. That’s a lame way of saying it’s a draw. And if soccer is dumb enough to celebrate ties then maybe I am too.
But if I wasn’t allowed to give the “everybody wins” response, if I had to pick a winner like a judge on “The Voice”, I’d go with Columbus. Defensemen usually take longer to develop. The Aaron Ekblad’s of the world are an anomaly. Seth Jones is only 21-years-old and just getting to that age where he should start to take the next step toward being the guy. Meanwhile, Ryan Johansen is 23. Although that is not old he was drafted nearly six years ago in the 1st round of the 2010 draft class of Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Cam Fowler, etc. Those guys have all firmly hit their stride without questions about their game and desire. Johansen still has plenty to answer for and Columbus certainly waited awhile to see if he’d take that next step. I still think he can get there with that roster in Nashville, but the advantage of time and the general history of how defensemen grow is in favor of Columbus and Seth Jones.
All we’re left to wonder now is can anything happen on the NHL’s actual trade deadline day on February 29th that can top this blockbuster deal? I’d be surprised.