Ryan Johansen knew it. As did David Poile.
It was only a matter of time before it all came together. And when it did, Nashville's top center signed on the dotted line to complete one of most significant contracts in franchise history.
Just before the work week came to a close, Johansen inked an eight-year, $64 million deal with the Predators to remain with the team and the city that the 24-year-old, soon-to-be 25 on Monday, has fallen in love with in just 18 months - more than enough time to realize Nashville is right where he wants to be.
"This is where I belong," Johansen said Friday afternoon from Bridgestone Arena. "This is where I want to play. There's no better staff, management team, group of guys, friends, place to live, city, fans… there's no better place to be right now."
"A year and a half ago, we made a deal with Columbus to pick up Ryan, and I think everyone would agree that was somewhat of… a turning point in our franchise," Poile said. "In [these contract] negotiations, his agent used a line that 'Ryan's a driver of our team,' and I totally concur with that. I really feel in these next eight years, we're going to do really well, and when we do really well, Ryan Johansen's going to be a big, big factor in all of our winning."
Johansen, who set a career-high with 47 assists during the 2016-17 season and tied for the team lead in scoring with 61 points, helped to make up one of the more dominant lines in hockey, centering wingers Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Forsberg has five years remaining on his current deal, and Arvidsson just inked a seven-year contract last week, all part of the general manager's plan to keep as much of his roster intact as possible. A roster that was two wins shy of winning a championship last month.
"We have our whole core signed up, and for a lot of guys, for a lot of years," Poile said. "I hope we've chosen correctly, and I believe we've chosen correctly… I think our room is a very close room, so I thought it was in my best interests, and in our team's best interests, if I could get the bulk of our team locked up for a long time so they could play together for a long time. So here we go."
After suffering a thigh injury in the Western Conference Final that sidelined him for the remainder of the team's run, Johansen began his rehabilitation in Nashville before heading home to British Columbia for the summer and says everything has gone according to plan.
Before the injury occurred, Johansen added four goals and 13 points through two-plus rounds, asserting his dominance as one of the top centers in the game, performing when it mattered most. And for those efforts and commitment, the Predators have returned the favor.
"The class that they've shown with me and committing and trusting me and believing in me for these next eight years, it's just so humbling," Johansen said. "I'm so excited for the next chapter, which is coming up fast with the short summer, but this is probably one the best days of my life right now."
The hope is that Johansen will be able to make some additions to that statement in the coming years, and for a 6-foot-3 centerman just coming into his prime, the odds are in his favor.
That's exactly why Poile and the Preds wanted to lock Johansen in for the foreseeable future - a wish that became reality with the stroke of an ink pen and belief in what's to come.
"There's no better place to play in the NHL right now than Nashville," Johansen said. "For myself, just as David and management believing and trusting in me to be the No. 1 center… there's no better opportunity for me."