The long search for a No. 1 center by the Nashville Predators and for a No. 1 defenseman by the Columbus Blue Jackets is finally over. It took one giant swing for the fences by Predators general manager David Poile to make it happen.
The Predators sent prized young defenseman Seth Jones to the Blue Jackets in a trade for prized young center Ryan Johansen on Wednesday.
Jones is a star-in-the-making, a 6-foot-4, 208-pound, 21-year-old whose next game will be his 200th in the NHL. He immediately tops the Blue Jackets' defensive depth chart, and Columbus coach John Tortorella should love him.
Tortorella never loved Johansen, but it appeared the forward's marriage to the Blue Jackets was doomed even before the new coach came on board seven games into this season. It likely started to deteriorate when Johansen didn't report last season because of a contract dispute; he eventually signed for three years.
That immediately brought up questions about his future in Columbus beyond next season. Now we know he doesn't have one.
Jones does. Getting him for Johansen was an automatic win for the Blue Jackets, especially because Jones will be a restricted free agent after this season, which means Columbus has control of his rights and the ability to sign him to a contract as long as eight years.
Jones is the defenseman the Blue Jackets can build around. Columbus has never had someone like him.
Poile and the Predators had to think long and hard before parting with Jones because of everything mentioned above. This had to be excruciating, because they know the huge risk of trading a 21-year-old potential elite defenseman.
But to get what you want -- and in this case it's a No. 1 center the organization has been lacking for a long time -- you have to give up something you want to keep.
The Predators never would have gotten a player of Johansen's experience (309 games), ability (193 points) and age (23) without sacrificing one of their elite defensemen.
Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm were not going to bring back a player like Johansen. It's unlikely Shea Weber would have either, because he's 30 years old, signed for nine more seasons, and eventually will decline.
|Tale of the tape
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It was either Jones or Roman Josi, and at this point, Josi is better for the Predators than Jones. He's 25 and signed for four more seasons at a $4 million NHL salary-cap charge.
The right move was to trade Jones to get the No. 1 center. The return on that investment, Johansen, has the ability to make the Predators a legitimate Stanley Cup contender because of the offense he brings.
Johansen, who had 71 points last season and 33 goals the season before, immediately becomes Nashville's No. 1 center. He allows Mike Ribeiro to move down to No. 2 and Mike Fisher to No. 3. That's where those veterans belong.
All of a sudden, the Predators, who are 18th in the NHL scoring 2.55 goals per game, have legitimate center depth, the wings to match (Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson), and a defense that still has Weber and Josi along with Ekholm and Ellis.
Add goalie Pekka Rinne and the Predators are a legitimate contender now. The Blue Jackets have the standout defenseman every team needs to be successful.
Nashville had three of them. Now it has two, plus a No. 1 center. That's a win.