It’s easy to look back on a trade, criticize it and say it was the wrong move. The Nashville Predators have made some interesting moves in recent memory.
With another critical offseason ahead for the Nashville Predators, expect another big move or two by the front office to try to get the team back on the right track towards a Stanley Cup.
This year’s elimination in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers marks the third-straight year that the team has gone backwards, and you can argue this was the worst season since Barry Trotz was finally let go in 2014 when the team failed to make the postseason for a second-straight season.
You can argue that the Predators missed the real playoffs this season, even though technically they do get credit for qualifying for the playoffs. Either way, you can easily go back and look at recent offseason moves and wonder how things could’ve been different.
The swap of two up-and-coming stars
The big trade of Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen in 2016 really turned heads at the time. Jones was just another piece of an excellent Predators defense, but the team as a whole still couldn’t get over the playoff hump.
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The Predators had always been on a quest to get that true top-line center that can change an offense. Johnasen was hopefully that guy, but in return the Predators were sacrificing a young defenseman in Jones that had all of the promise in the world to turn into a star.
At the time of the trade I saw it as a good deal for both sides. As hard as it was to see Jones go, I knew the Predators had a solid defense and badly needed offensive help. Addition by subtraction was the strategy, and I wasn’t against it.
Giving up a No.4 overall pick like Jones was just a couple seasons before this trade took guts by Poile. It’s hard to say if he would make that move today if he could go back in time.
Johansen’s impact on the Predators
The 2017 regular season really wasn’t all that great for the Predators as they narrowly even made the playoffs. It’s easily forgotten because the Predators eventually went to the Stanley Cup Final and came up just two wins short.
Johansen suffered a brutal injury in the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks, and you can argue was the missing piece the Predators needed to seal the deal against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 2016-17 regular season, which was Johansen’s first full season with Nashville, saw the centerman really take charge with 61 points. He was having an outstanding postseason up until the injury with 13 points in 14 playoff games.
The image of Johansen on crutches as the Predators won the Western Conference is one that will forever be ingrained in the memories of most fans of the Predators. He’s a huge part of this team, and a class act all the way around.
Who won the trade?
The question now is was that great showing in 2017 by Johansen, and partially in 2018, enough to justify the loss of Jones?
The Predators have since really sagged off defensively behind their top-two of Josi and Ryan Ellis. They’ve become top-heavy, very thin and inexperienced. Many questions remain for this unit.
As much as you might want to frown on the trade nearly five years later, you really can’t nitpick that much. It’s a toss-up as to who won the trade. If you make me pick, perhaps Columbus has benefited more from Jones than Nashville has from what they thought they were getting with a No.1 top center.
It’s impossible to know the exact ripple effect of the Jones trade. With that said, can you imagine if the Predators had Josi and Ellis on the top pairing backed up by Jones and Ekholm, followed by an improving Fabbro?
To this day I would guess that Poile thinks about trading away Jones more than many of his other big trades he’s made. He didn’t want to give up his prized young defenseman at the time, but did anyway, per the original story written by Dan Rosen at the time:
“I wanted my cake and eat it too,” Poile said. “Did I want to touch our defense? Did I want to trade [Jones]? Absolutely no”
Jones is obviously a very important part of the Columbus Blue Jackets currently, but Johansen remains a top-line center for the Predators who could still have some of his best years coming up. Even this many years later, the jury can still be out on who has won this trade.
Johansen remains the top center for the Predators going into next season and into 2021. His unquestionable chemistry with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson was reignited. Let’s see if Poile can rebuild behind this trio.
There are many other moves you can easily criticize Poile for making over the years, but this one is a reach as much as Jones would help the Predators today. A big trade that has turned out to help both teams, and still can in the future.