What Ryan Johansen Means for Nashville and Milwaukee

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
The Nashville Predators finally dipped into their high-end defensive depth to acquire Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets. What does that mean for the Milwaukee Admirals in the immediate and near future? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Yesterday was a massive day in the Nashville Predators organization. They pulled the trigger on a trade and finally have a legit first choice center that they have been chasing after forever. The man: Ryan Johansen. The cost: Seth Jones.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (January 6, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the team has acquired center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Seth Jones.

“Ryan is a big, young center that can score, set up goals, win faceoffs,” Poile said. “He’s a No. 1 center who is still growing his game and has the size and skill that we have been looking for to match up with the best in the League.”

Johansen, 23 (7/31/92), played in all 82 of Columbus’ games in 2013-14 and 2014-15, first setting a career high in goals (33), then posting personal bests in assists (45) and points (71) while appearing in the 2015 All-Star Game. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound native of Vancouver has 26 points (6g-20a) in 38 games this season. For his career, Johansen has 193 points (79g-114a) in 309 games and a 51.8 percent success rate in the face-off circle, including a 52 percent success rate this season, putting him in the Top 10 among those taking at least 400 draws.

The fourth overall selection in the 2010 Entry Draft, Johansen also has six points (2g-4a) in six career Stanley Cup Playoff games – all in 2014 with the Blue Jackets. He earned a silver medal and a spot on the tournament all-star team at the 2011 World Junior Championship after posting nine points (3g-6a) in seven games, and was a 2011 WHL First Team All-Star after recording 92 points (40g-52a) in 63 regular-season WHL games, and a league-best 28 points (13g-15a) in 21 postseason contests in his second and final campaign with the Portland Winterhawks.

There you have it. The Predators finally did it. After all this time. We finally have a concrete answer for why Petter Granberg was acquired off waivers!

Alright, I could help but use that joke. Kidding aside, what an incredible moment for Predators hockey. There was so much talk among what players in the Predators defense were or weren’t available and, if they were, what value did they hold and what player(s) should they be used to fetch. Out of all the names the one that seemed like it would be hard to pry away would be Jones. He was selected fourth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. Was an NHL level player from Day #1. And, at the age of 21-years old, can only keep getting better and better.

Here is the catch to all of this and it is something I feel very strongly about: balance is the key to championship level success.

The Predators for a very long time now have had the best three-lines of defense in the NHL. Shea Weber and Roman Josi are self explanatory at this point for how world class they are. Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis‘ development process from Milwaukee to Nashville has been a joy to watch them become such strong well-rounded players. For this season, the Predators added veteran defenseman Barret Jackman to provide a touch more of experience to the group. And this all gets said without name dropping Victor Bartley, Anthony Bitetto, and this kid named Jones.

For all the iterations of the past, with so many of the same pieces, with the current set it all boils down to a simple fact. That fact is that defensemen and defensemen alone aren’t what win Stanley Cups. Teams win Stanley Cups. Teams with a well structured and balanced roster are what succeed. And the Nashville Predators, as great as that defense and goaltender are and have been, haven’t been that. For that reason and that reason alone a change needed to be made. A surplus of high-end defensive talent was in the pocket and time and time again that first choice center wasn’t there to be had. Enough was enough. The talent pool on defense was used to get that center. That center’s name was Johansen and now it’s time to see if the team’s balance can shift from defense heavy to an across the board well-rounded team.

What I think of most with this move is where my joke came in. Hey, that Granberg move finally has some fog lifting from it all of the sudden! But when you really think about it that’s where that waiver claim was always leaning towards. The Predators were aware of Granberg. They saw a chance to snatch him up clean through the waiver wire. Tested him out after his injury that sidelined his start to the 2015-16 season with a conditioning assignment here with the Milwaukee Admirals. Returned to Nashville. And now finds himself as a seventh choice defenseman at the NHL level with Bitetto stepping in early but with Granberg, the right handed shooting defenseman of those two, due to get a look to test his waters with the Predators.

So the defensive replacements were already in place to facilitate the loss of Jones. Bartley had cleared waivers to reach Milwaukee. Bitetto and Granberg can operate and rotate bottom line right side defense. Should that go faulty the Predators can do Bartley but, for those unaware in Nashville, he is currently nursing an injury and only returned to practice yesterday.

That’s all that for the Predators. An awesome moment to actually sit back and see happen. Two NHL teams trading very young highly talented players which both arrive to teams as tremendously welcomed additions fulfilling long time needs. Plus, it was a straight up deal – one for one – one fourth overall selection taken in the 2013 NHL Draft for one fourth overall selection taken in the 2010 NHL Draft. As it stands today, I think Predators General Manager David Poille should be commended for getting a move like this done now and getting it done without a frenzied rush or batch of pieces being off-loaded from the team. Last season’s trade to Toronto felt weird from Day #1 and if it didn’t for you then I’m sure it did when the Predators didn’t have a first round draft pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. This was a smooth deal and I feel like both can highly benefit from it.

Another bright spot for Nashville is that, because of the nature of this trade, if another trade is possible or on the table with a chance to step in and add another dynamic piece to the offense – they have all those additional assets within their control right now. The prospect pipeline is fresh. It’s thriving. It is still intact. All that was traded away yesterday was one defenseman and nothing else Could more be ahead for the Predators before the trade deadline closes? I don’t know – but it is possible thanks to the resources still being there.

As far as the Admirals are concerned, this move tilts things slightly where the defense of the Predators has been chipped away a small bit in an effort to push the forward depth. An increase at forward could mean, once everyone is healthy, a possibility of Viktor Arvidsson or Miikka Salomäki returning to the team. The Admirals are already expecting to get Vladislav Kamenev back after a great showing at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors captaining his country Russia. With team captain Colton Sissons also back here in the mix lately the forward depth of the Admirals might be trending back towards the lineup that saw them set a franchise record ten-game winning streak.

The Admirals have been getting by for what feels like a month’s worth of hockey with guys like Frédérick GaudreauMax Görtz, Félix GirardKevin Fiala, Pontus Åberg, Max Reinhart, and Adam Payerl all being tasked with achieving more, being put in bigger roles than they had been tasked with, and succeeding to the point where the Admirals are currently the top team in the AHL’s Western Conference despite the necessity to make PTO signings such as Matt White and Zac Larraza just to be able to fill out a twelve man forward group. It’s worked regardless of injuries or call-ups.

It’s about to get even better as bodies return to the team in the form of returning faces or healed bodies. Taylor Aronson had been playing incredibly well until a lower-body injury put him down for what is expected to be a few more weeks yet. Trevor Murphy and Cody Bass are both back to practicing from “upper-body” injuries. Plus, signs point to Bartley getting back sooner rather than later. So many banged up bodies. So many other players rising to the occasion. It’s been a pretty miraculous season to date for the Admirals. What’s fun to think is this.

There is every bit the reason to believe the Admirals 2015-16 season could be even more special than that of their parent club, the Predators, and it’s thanks to their acquisition of Johansen. Swapping a defenseman like Jones allows a hard working polished defenseman like Bitetto to take his place at the NHL level while the Predators finally got their first line center. The defensive depth hasn’t really changed all that much but the forward depth has in a big way. Those shockwaves can alter how the Predators choose to roll out certain players and some might need to return to Milwaukee. The system depth at forward just got stronger at the NHL and AHL level. The days ahead are about to prove just that.

What was your reaction to the Nashville Predators trade yesterday? Is Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones a fair deal for both sides? Do you think the Predators are done shopping for forwards or is another deal ahead?

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