The Blue Jackets were reluctant to trade Ryan Johansen. The Nashville Predators were reluctant to trade Seth Jones.
But both GMs, Jarmo Kekalainen and David Poile, took hard looks at their rosters and saw glaring needs both in the short and long term. There’s no quick fix for the lack of a top center, just as there’s no immediate remedy for not having a top pairing defenseman – but sometimes, if the time is right, these things can come together quickly.
And while the basis or foundation for a Seth Jones-for-Ryan Johansen trade was laid months ago, talks accelerated and got going in this direction after the NHL’s holiday roster freeze expired.
That’s when Kekalainen said he and Poile got serious about making the deal, and in the last 24-48 hours, it appeared as thought it could become reality.
The fact that a 1-for-1 deal took months to sign off on, after some hemming and hawing on both sides, should be enough indication that neither team was looking to move either player. But, for a variety of reasons, the deal ended up making sense and both teams feel they've improved in key areas.
“We gave up a good player in Ryan Johansen, but we feel our depth on the forwards side is good and we have a lot of good young players coming, and our biggest need right now and into the future was adding a real good defenseman,” Kekalainen said. “They’re not easy to get. There are not many available, and when a guy like Seth Jones became available, we decided to make this move.”
The Blue Jackets believe they’re adding a player in Jones who changes the dynamic of their blue line. A player who, at age 21, still has plenty of room to grow and much to learn as he moves along in his career but has still proven early on that he's got the makings of a special player.
Jones checks all the boxes for your ideal top-pairing defenseman: 6-foot-4, great hockey sense, the ability to transport the puck, and unafraid to join the rush and create offense. He’s seen time on the power play, the penalty kill, and had the opportunity to learn from established NHL defensemen like Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Barret Jackman among others.
For the Blue Jackets, the most exciting part about this trade isn’t what Jones is now – it’s what he has the potential to be in the years ahead.
“It’s huge for the organization,” said coach John Tortorella. “That position the back end is such an important position if you want to sustain and be competitive in this league. It’s a really good move for this organization. I hope it really works well (in Nashville) for Joey – he’s a good kid. For the situation we’re in and the situation they’re in, it works for both clubs.
“(Jones) is a 21-year-old, right hand shot defenseman. What he can bring to this team…it’s monstrous as you look to the future. You can’t look by this type of situation. We’re really excited about the guy we brought in here. It’s quality for quality. It’s a good hockey trade – that’s what this is – you don’t see many of these, and it’s a 1-on-1 trade that helps both teams.”
And as it goes with midseason trades, the few hours that followed Jones’ call from Poile delivering the news were anything but sluggish.
He had enough time to pack some belongings (with the help of his family) and get ready for a flight to Columbus, but not much more than that. He was in the capital city in the late evening, giving him time to relax, get a good night’s rest and get ready for his first practice with the Blue Jackets the next morning.
He even ran into Johansen – his friend and fellow Portland Winterhawks alum – in the charter terminal they both used for their flights.
“I’m very excited for the role I’m going to get. I think I’m ready,” Jones said. “They’ve made it pretty clear that they’re going to throw more at me than I’m used to. I’m ready to take on the challenge.
“We packed my things up and I came right here. I’m excited to be here. It’s nice to turn the page, look at a new chapter in my career and start here fresh.”