Trade for Johansen huge for Predators
NASHVILLE, TENN. The Nashville Predators stunned the NHL not once but twice in 2016 by trading away a top defenceman. Ryan Johansen is the big centre landed with Nashville’s first big trade, a move almost forgotten in the wake of the deal that brought P.K. Subban to Music City.
With Nashville in the Western Conference final, the deal for Johansen is looking like one of general manager David Poile’s more masterful swaps.
“Well, it was a big addition at the time,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said of Johansen. “Pieces like that are hard to come by.
“He was young. He’s six foot three. He’s big. He’s skilled. He’s talented. From an organizational standpoint, the depth of what we needed, it made a lot of sense.”
The Predators hoped Johansen could be the topline centre the franchise has been searching for since its inaugural season back in 1998-99.
Poile sent young defenceman Seth Jones, who had been paired with captain Shea Weber, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Johansen on Jan. 6.
Looking back now, it’s a move overshadowed by Poile’s other trade last June, when he shocked the league by trading Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for fellow defenceman Subban.
But Johansen immediately moved onto the top line where he helped the Predators reach the playoffs last spring. They beat the Anaheim Ducks in seven games only to lose to the San Jose Sharks in seven in the second round.
Now 24, Johansen tied with linemate Viktor Arvidsson with 61 points in his first full regular season in Nashville, and he also handed out a team-high 47 assists. Only 10 players in the NHL had more this season.
“I think Ryan’s had an excellent year and just the growth for me in him as a person and as a leader as somebody who wants to be that guy, to make a difference and make sure a team moves in the right direction, it’s been noticeable this year that he’s really trying to take ownership,” Laviolette said.
Predators forward Colin Wilson called the trade another great move considering Nashville needed a big No. 1 centre and got it in Johansen.
“He’s been great for us,” Wilson said. “In a game that’s gotten big and fast, it’s nice to have him there, and he’s been producing well for us and that line in general wasn’t here three, four years ago.”
Johansen outplayed Chicago captain Jonathan Toews as Nashville swept the Blackhawks in the first round. In one moment as they fought for the puck, the 218-pounder from Vancouver stiff-armed Toews to the ice to grab possession.
“He’s obviously a really big guy,” linemate Filip Forsberg said. “And he can move well too, and I think just one of those guys that can do it all.”