Friedman: Potential Johansen deal ‘a hard trade to win’

Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes 7-5 on Thursday night to end a five-game losing streak.

The latest chapter in the Ryan Johansen saga saw the Columbus Blue Jackets centre observe his team’s 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes Thursday as a healthy scratch.

Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman joined Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Friday and told the crew he believes the Blue Jackets will trade Johansen. The 2015 all-star will be seeking a significant payday when his contract expires after the 2016-17 season.

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has made it clear he’s looking for more than just points from the 23-year-old centre. Johansen is the team’s second-leading scorer with six goals and 22 points.

The 57-year-old coach is no stranger to pushing superstars to be better all-around players, but Friedman noted a big difference between the Johansen saga and Tortorella’s dealings with Vincent Lecavalier in Tampa.

“Everybody talks about this ‘John Tortorella being John Tortorella’ and his history in Tampa,” Friedman said. “When he went through this with Vinny Lecavalier, everybody forgets there’s a GM, Jay Feaster, who came right out and said, ‘I don’t care what’s going on with these two guys… nobody is getting fired and nobody is getting traded. They’re going to have to work it out together.’

“Now, we know John Tortorella is not getting fired because he just got hired. But there isn’t anybody coming out for Columbus and saying, ‘Ryan Johansen isn’t getting traded.’ “

So what’s the issue with Johansen?

“They had the salary dispute last year, and I really thought they worked hard to put it behind them. This is what Tortorella does. He takes his best players and he challenges them. They’ve questioned [Johansen’s] will, his determination to put in the work that he needs to do to reach that level of talent. And I think what this has done is shown as an organization they don’t believe he’s anywhere close to being where he needs to be.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think they trust him. And that’s why I think they’re going to trade him.”

While it might be easy to find a trade partner if the Blue Jackets elect to move Johansen, Friedman believes the club could be in tough to come out ahead in any potential deal.

“It’s a dangerous trade to make because it’s a hard trade to win. No. 1 centres are very hard to find. But it’s hard to do anything here but draw the conclusion that Columbus doesn’t believe that Ryan Johansen will live up to his potential when they have to really pay him a year from now.”

As for the most likely destination for Johansen to land in a trade, it’s wide open.

“There’s going to be lots of teams. To me, this has got Nashville written all over it if they want to do a deal. I think St. Louis would be involved in this one. I think they’ve scouted him quite heavily. I don’t know if Vancouver has got what it takes to make that deal, but he’s from out there,” said Friedman.

Friedman also noted that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is someone to keep an eye on if trade talk heats up around Johansen or Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos. Montreal could look to add an elite centre in its effort to take a run at the Stanley Cup in the spring.