In a way, it took Predators general manager David Poile by surprise as well.
“I never thought I would trade [Jones]. I didn’t want to trade him,” Poile told the Hockey Central panel Wednesday. “I wanted to have our cake and eat it too…It wasn’t easy for me to pull the trigger.”
When Jones fell to the Preds at No. 4 at the 2013 NHL Draft, Poile was ecstatic. In fact, Poile even tried trading up a couple spots that year to ensure they’d get Jones.
Over the years Poile has accumulated an abundance of talent on the blue-line. In addition to Jones, the Predators boasted Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm on defence and that depth afforded the Preds to make the trade.
“It was pretty simple. I asked [Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen] if he was ever going to trade Johansen we coveted trying to get a top centre and he told me right off the bat if he was ever going to do it that it would take one of our top young defencemen,” Poile explained. “Our offence has been inconsistent and we needed to find that No. 1 centre. We’ve been trying basically my whole career here in Nashville to get that top centreman.”
Johansen has just six goals in 38 games this season, but his 26 total points is tied for first among current Predators forwards. A change in scenery could also benefit the 23-year-old, who seemed to fall out of favour with new Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella – even though he told reporters on a conference call that his relationship with Torts was “good.”
Regardless of any perceived feuds or off-ice issues Johansen might have been going through in Columbus, Poile believes the fourth-overall pick from 2010 will fit in well in Nashville.
“There’s maturity levels for all different people. Circumstantially, there’s a lot of things that happen within different franchises,” Poile said. “The thing you have to remember first and foremost, Ryan Johansen was not available until Columbus lost eight games straight, until they made a coaching change…He was never available but things change…We’ve got great leadership on our team. Our coaches are going to play a different way that I think is going to be very favourable to Johansen and I think it’s going to be a good team for both teams.”
Poile also spoke to the fact this was a player-for-player deal you don’t see too often anymore.
“This is a huge trade. It’s so hard to make a trade now,” Poile said. “This is a trade where both teams had a huge need and they both filled that need. I’m wishing Seth Jones well and obviously I hope it works good for us because this is two very important players that got traded.”