FINALLY…a big trade, HAS COME BACK to the NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUEEEEeeeeeeee. And it’s a deal that makes sense for both teams! There seems to be tons of these around the league, yet they never get done. Tough to say what is going on behind the scenes in these scenarios. Certain scouts may have their reasons for disliking certain guys. A player on your current roster may have a big issue with a player that may fit. A coach or someone in management may have a problem with a potential incoming player. Lots of things that will factor in besides the cap. But this one got done.
So who wins? Well the real answer is…we’ll see. One guy is 23 and he’s the elder in this deal. We got a hell of a long way to go before we ever have a winner or a loser in this deal. But if you’re asking me today, I seem to be going against what most are saying.
Mark Spector and Elliotte Friedman are two guys who I got all the time in the world for when it comes to hearing their opinions. Both like Columbus to be the winner in this deal. It does make me wonder if Johansen is a bit of a problem in the room when two guys in the know like those two are saying this.
But what is more likely is that they’re both looking at this from the point of view of who will be the better player. For me, I don’t judge trades off who got better value any longer. I used to do that. Then I watched the Oilers seemingly win a lot of trades in terms of value, only to make the team worse and worse as they stockpiled the same type of player. Something I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes you have to lose in value on a trade to make your team better. But if it makes your team better, then how are you losing the trade?
Who makes the Nashville Predators better, Seth Jones or Ryan Johansen? Jones has been on the Preds 3rd pairing, and frankly he hasn’t had a good season, after a solid series against the Blackhawks in last years playoffs. They have Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and even though I’m not much of a fan of his…Ryan Ellis. They got their minute eaters, they got their guys to play the PP, they got their RH shots, what is the need for Jones?
But they don’t have anything close to Johansen down the middle. 6’3, 218 pound right handed shot centre who played 82 games each of the last seasons, and put up a 63 point season, followed by a 71 point season. How often do these guys become available? Ever?
Meanwhile it’s actually pretty common that young defencemen like Jones become available. Chris Pronger was traded at age 20. Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Whitney, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, Luke Schenn. There are LOTS of scenarios where highly skilled young D-men are traded. Different reasons for sure, but it happens pretty often.
I’m a big Seth Jones fan. And he might be a better player than Johansen when all is said and done. But the Preds improved a ton. Did Columbus?
No doubt that the Jackets have needed a stud on the blueline to build around now for a long time. Jones, David Savard, if Ryan Murray can stay healthy, and Zach Werenski coming is the makings of a great blueline. But now, what’s down the middle? Alex Wenneberg? Boone Jenner? Brandon Dubinsky? All nice centres, good depth, but I don’t see any of them becoming that elite number 1 centre. I don’t even see them being the guy Johansen was the last 2 seasons.
So while the Jackets strengthened a weakness, I believe they just traded one weakness for another. Having solid depth down the middle with no number 1 guy, you can be a perennial playoff team built like that. But if you want to build a Cup contender, you need a guy like Johansen which is why David Poile pulled the trigger on this trade. Teams that have those miracle/fluke runs to the final (02 Hurricanes, 03 Ducks, 04 Flames, 06 Oilers, 2012 Devils), they have what Columbus now has at centre. Teams that win the Cup or constantly contend, they have guys like Johansen, sometimes two guys like Johansen.
This Columbus management team put themselves in this position with their last few drafts. 2013 they had a massive hole on the blueline moving forward and with three 1st round picks they failed to address it. Three. 2014 draft, I was beyond shocked when they passed on Travis Sanheim to take Sonny Milano. The Jackets had used two of those three 1st’s on wingers the year before (Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano whom they used along with good centre Artem Anisimov to get Brandon Saad…another winger), and in today’s NHL with it being so difficult to find a trade you have to actually build your team through the draft, you can’t just sit back and take the best player available anymore.
Now, maybe the thought process is that they’re in contention to get Auston Matthews, but that is no sure thing. Remember, the draft lottery has now changed. Finishing 30th now only guarantees a top 4 pick, unlike the past when it guaranteed a top 2 pick. And after Matthews, this draft doesn’t seem to have a potential elite 1st line centre. Normally you can’t find that guy outside of the top 5 of the draft, where as with defencemen it is a lot more of a crap shoot and you can find those number 1 guys all over the 1st round. Heck, look at the Preds D. It’s one of the best in the NHL, and now none of those guys were even a top 10 pick (Ryan Ellis went 11th in 09).
It isn’t just Nashville’s D. Calgary only has one guy who went top 10, and their top pairing went 4th round and undrafted. NY Rangers took Marc Staal 8th, but their top 3 guys were all outside of the top 10. Only Brent Seabrook (14th overall) was a 1st round pick on the Hawks blueline. Same thing with Montreal (Beaulieu 17th in 2011).
But getting back to the whole Cup contender thing, maybe they’ll be very satisfied becoming that perennial playoff team. Being built this way they are capable of that. Worry about Cup contending at some other point for a franchise who only has 2 playoff wins in what will now be 15 seasons (16 if you include 05).
And having made this case for the Preds winning the deal, I do have to keep in mind that there was a rift between Johansen and the Jackets. But that doesn’t mean they had to go get Jones. With the season lost, they could have looked to land a package deal that would fill both the 1st line centre needs and shore up the blueline down the road.
But again, we won’t know who won this deal for a LONG time. Looking at it today, in my opinion, I love what David Poile did. He stepped up and took a big swing looking to put the Preds over the hump. Maybe it won’t, but it was definitely a swing I would have taken. Hopefully more GM’s look to do the same for their teams in the weeks to come as we close in on the trade deadline.
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