Nashville Predators: Ryan Johansen Trade Part of a Bigger, Master Plan?

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 01: Ryan Johansen #92 of the Nashville Predators scores at 33 seconds of overtime to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 at the Prudential Center on December 01, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 01: Ryan Johansen #92 of the Nashville Predators scores at 33 seconds of overtime to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 at the Prudential Center on December 01, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Just days before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the host Nashville Predators finally found a trade partner for Ryan Johansen, sending the former top line center to the Colorado Avalanche for forward Alex Galchenyuk.

The trade also involved the Nashville Predators retaining half of Johansen’s $8 million salary through the remaining two years of his contract, which was signed way back in the summer of 2017 following the Stanley Cup Final run by the Predators.

Just for people keeping track at home; the Nashville Predators just since March’s trade deadline have completely rattled their veteran core and sent a loud message to other NHL front offices. Everything is on the table.

Key Preds Trades in 2023

  • Nino Niederreiter Traded to WPG for 2024 4th-Rd Pick
  • Tanner Jeannot Traded to TB for Cal Foote, 5 Draft Picks
  • Mattias Ekholm Traded to EDM for Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, 2 Picks
  • Mikael Granlund Traded to PIT for 2023 2nd-Rd Pick
  • Ryan Johansen Traded to COL for Alex Galchenyuk

This might just be an appetizer before the NHL Draft madness

On the surface, this trade looks pretty bad for the Predators. A team desperate to just move on and avoid a buyout. This happens a lot when front offices bite off more than they can chew on these long-term deals.

With the NHL offseason trade market drawing some heat, and the Predators being heavily linked in some of those trade rumors, incoming General Manager Barry Trotz saw the opportunity to shed some cap space and free up roster positions for the influx of youth that already played important minutes down the stretch of last season.

“Joey has been a big part of the team’s success in the last six or seven years. His impact in the community, his impact in the dressing room, his impact on the ice – it’s everywhere” Barry Trotz told the Team’s Official Website

This decision to move on from Johansen even with retaining half the salary signals that Trotz has much more in his plans and wanted extra cap space to make that a possibility.

Trotz had some kind and commendable words for what Johansen brought to the Predators organization over the years, per the team’s official website.

Now not only does Trotz have a projected cap space of just over $17 million per PuckPedia, but the 13 draft picks add even more leverage at the bargaining table. Trotz has a lot of chips he can play.

It isn’t just about the cap space, but also about roster positioning. The question was begging itself to be asked going all the way back to last offseason, and amplified when Johansen unfortunately went down on February 21 with a season-ending skate blade injury.

Leading up to the injury, Johansen was having his second-lowest point per game output since the 2012-13 season with the Blue Jackets, only his second year in the NHL.

With Thomas Novak and Cody Glass really proving to be a young, dynamic duo along with Juuso Parssinen also taking off quickly in his rookie season, the need to keep Johansen around grew even smaller. Forget about the bloated AAV of $8 million, it really came down to where are you going to place him in the starting lineup?

Back in Episode 181 of

Catfish on Ice Podcast

, myself and Kyle Perkins discussed what Trotz’ offseason plans were, and where Johansen fit into that.

What this means for Nashville Predators Lineup in 2023-24

The return of Galchenyuk is regarded more as a nothing burger it seems. A journeyman NHL player who is joining his eighth NHL organization with the Nashville Predators, including two separate stints with the Arizona Coyotes.

Perhaps Galchenyuk, who is a UFA this offseason, gets a one-year deal from the Predators, but it looks unlikely. However, the Predators could use some more depth in their bottom six, so perhaps he sticks around for a cheap deal.

The 2023-24 lineup for the Nashville Predators doesn’t change a heck of a whole lot from what we were already witnessing down the stretch in April. A valiant run to the postseason that came up three points shy of the Winnipeg Jets for a final wildcard spot.

This is why this trade isn’t all that bad for either side, really. The Predators didn’t lose a draft or anyone in their young core to unload Johansen. That’s a decent sized victory right there.

Sure, the 2023-24 Nashville Predators are going to be young and face their fair share of growing pains. What that means in the standings is anyone’s guess. It could be a flame out and another postseason miss, or it could be these young players continue to blossom and take the NHL by storm.

The bigger picture looks crystal clear from Trotz; don’t sit back and be patient. He clearly wants to make serious moves this offseason and waste no time in doing it. I applaud his willingness to be aggressive and can’t wait to see what more he’s going to pull off during the NHL Draft.

Should the Preds Keep Both 1st-Rd Picks in 2023 Draft?. light. Trending

I might have to bet the farm on Trotz not being finished yet and the Nashville Predators making another significant trade before or during the NHL Draft.

Trotz seems to have a firm belief that this team can compete right away in 2023-24, but even if they don’t, he’s definitely going to make sure this roster is reloaded with young talent that can be a force a couple years down the road.