For 18 years, David Poile has been trying to obtain a No. 1 center. On Wednesday, he got his man.
The Predators completed a blockbuster trade to acquire center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Seth Jones, a move Poile acknowledged was difficult to make, but also an essential one for the future of the team.
“We’ve had a lot of good players come through here, and we’ve had some good centers, but we have a chance here to have truly our No. 1 center, something that we’ve been coveting for a long time,” Poile said Wednesday evening after completing the deal. “It was a steep price to pay… but having Ryan Johansen at center ice with the defense that we have, our top-four still being intact, I think that is a better balance for our club because it’s a better chance to win on a nightly basis.”
Johansen, a 23-year-old native of Vancouver, appeared in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game and tallied a career-high 33 goals in 2013-14, followed by a career-high 71 points in 2014-15. Expected to arrive in Nashville and practice with the team on Thursday, Johansen is excited to sport the Preds logo.
“This is a very good hockey club over in Nashville, which myself, and the rest of this League have always been aware of,” Johansen said via conference call. “There's a huge opportunity for me to take the next step in my career and hopefully build a championship team over in Nashville.”
While Poile is looking forward to seeing what Johansen will bring to the club, he also admitted that it wasn’t easy to send a player like Jones elsewhere.
“Seth is always going to be one of my favorite players,” Poile said. “He conducts himself so well, his maturity is way beyond his years, and we saw that in how he plays. We saw that when he first came here; how he treats everybody, how he plays, how he reacts - you can’t say enough good things about Seth as the potential of where he’s going as a player and where he is as a person already.”
However, Poile is well aware that in order to gain a big piece, it was necessary to give up a big piece. Poile said that he and Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen were both steadfast in their desire of what each wanted and that the deal eventually came together.
Nashville’s GM also believes that while there may have been less than ideal conditions for Johansen in Columbus this season, a fresh start in Nashville will be a solid fit, similar to Tyler Seguin’s resurgence from Boston to Dallas, or Kyle Turris, previously with the Coyotes and now with Ottawa.
“We’ve done a lot of research on the situation,” Poile said. “There’s a lot of things that happened in the offseason with Ryan, and I am very comfortable that a change of scenery is probably the right thing for him right now. We’ve just got to get him into our system, our culture, under our coaches; we’ve got great leadership on our hockey club.
“I believe that [a positive change] certainly is going to happen here with Ryan Johansen.”
As for Johansen, he’s eager to play with his new club, beginning Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
“I know the expectations I have for my game,” Johansen said. “If I'm meeting those, I think the fans in Nashville will be happy with my play. It's my job to go out there and play to my abilities and do what I can do. I'm going to come in with a fresh start and a new team and try to do my thing.
“I want to get that jersey on as soon as possible and start the new chapter and go have some fun.”