Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones! There’s the blockbuster we have all been waiting for. It made too much sense not to happen, but when it didn’t immediately occur after rumours circulated you wondered if it would ever happen. Wednesday evening, it finally did and there will be plenty of fallout in fantasy hockey leagues. Let’s take a look at the impact.
The Predators get: A legitimate No. 1 centre with the size and skill to hang with the big boys in the Western Conference. You do have to wonder if the issues that landed Johansen in John Tortorella’s doghouse are legitimate. Is Johansen out of shape? If he is, then Nashville may not be getting what they hoped for, but you have to assume Johansen is ready to play now that we’re this deep into the season. You give players with his talent the benefit of the doubt.
Johansen will be teamed up with two of James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson or Craig Smith, all of whom have scored 20 goals in an NHL season. Given how Peter Laviolette loves to mix his lines there will be little consistency with exactly who gets time with Johansen, but for Johansen’s sake this is a great spot, no matter which two wingers he gets grouped with.
Johansen will almost certainly replace Mike Fisher and grab a spot on the top power-play unit alongside Neal, Forsberg, Shea Weber and Roman Josi. It is worth wondering if the Predators will need to re-jigger their setup to fit Johansen as Fisher was mostly on that unit to serve as faceoff man and net-front presence. Johansen is woefully underused as a net-front guy and yet the other four are all talented enough that you wouldn’t push any of them out either.
Fisher likely lands on the second power-play unit, but this is clearly a drop off for him after a strong performance last season. Injuries and age have made him untenable as a No. 1 option. Consider Fisher waiver fodder in most leagues.
Also hurt by this move is Calle Jarnkrok who had been seeing a ton of chances as a top centre while the Predators dealt with injuries. This was never going to be a fit, however, and Johansen’s presence puts that notion to rest.
Presumably Nashville’s No. 2 centre, Mike Ribeiro, would take a hit here but he really hasn’t elevated above the two spot all season and was stuck on the second power-play unit even before Johansen arrived. Laviolette has almost exclusively used Ribeiro in the offensive zone so if anything the addition of Johansen should get Ribeiro more cushy offensive zone starts and defensive matchups. Given that Ribeiro turned up the heat with 13 points in 15 games in December, we may just see Ribeiro continue his run of hot play.
Some folks are expecting a big step forward by Ryan Ellis now that Jones is gone, but this is tough to envision. Ellis was already performing very well and skating on the second power-play unit alongside Jones. There really isn’t anywhere upward for Ellis to move given the presence of Josi and Weber.
Projections for the rest of the season:
Johansen: 15 goals, 40 points in 40 games
Neal: 15 goals, 25 points in 30 games
Forsberg: 10 goals, 32 points in 40 games
Ribeiro: 5 goals, 27 points in 35 games
Smith: 10 goals, 22 points in 35 games
Wilson: 8 goals, 20 points in 38 games
Fisher: 7 goals, 14 points in 35 games
Ellis: 3 goals, 17 points in 40 games
The Blue Jackets get: A legitimate No. 1 defenceman who can be used in all situations to carry the load for a team that has desperately needed help on the blue-line. Columbus hoped it had solutions in Jack Johnson, David Savard and Ryan Murray, but while all have been given big minutes, none has necessarily been up to the task. Now we get to see what Jones is made of without Shea Weber and Roman Josi ahead of him.
Jones is the real deal and we should quickly find that out. Skating 19:39 per game with only 2:25 on the second power-play unit, Jones was not used optimally in Nashville. Given the royal treatment he should emerge similar to Aaron Ekblad in Florida or Rasmus Ristolainen in Buffalo.
That royal treatment is no guarantee, however. Tortorella may want to use Jones as a shutdown guy. More than likely Jones will pair with Jack Johnson to play the tough minutes for Columbus, which pushes Savard down the lineup.
It is possible that Savard will keep his opportunities on the top power-play unit and get used as more of a specialist. It may even help Savard to start skating fewer minutes than the 24:35 he has averaged this season.
Exactly how it all works out remains a mystery, but the safe bet is on this helping Jones (especially long term) and hurting Savard.
Adding a defenceman of Jones’ calibre will also work wonders for Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been hung out to dry on too many occasions. When (if) Bobrovsky shakes off his groin injury, he will find his new best friend lined up ahead of him.
There’s also the absence of Johansen to deal with. Alexander Wennberg has already been skating some big minutes alongside scorers Scott Hartnell and Brandon Saad at even strength and on the second power-play unit. Wennberg has quietly scored 14 points in his past 14 games. Do not expect him to score at that level forever, but understand there is real potential already being achieved.
Rather than needing to fill a hole on the top line, the Blue Jackets seemingly need to find a new centre for their third line with Nick Foligno and Gregory Campbell, where Johansen had been playing the past few games. Given the depth of wingers the Jackets have, we might just see Foligno move to the middle and play with a cople of checkers. Either way, Foligno loses big time.
Projections for the rest of the season:
Jones: 6 goals, 22 points in 40 games
Johnson: 3 goals, 18 points in 40 games
Savard: 4 goals, 12 points in 35 games
Wennberg: 6 goals, 25 points in 40 games
Foligno: 9 goals, 18 points in 40 games
Bobrovsky: 15 wins, .920 save percentage in 30 starts
Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey. Follow him on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.