Kekalainen: ‘Johansen trade has nothing to do with Tortorella’

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen spoke about trading away Ryan Johansen, and how it has nothing to do with coach John Tortorella. (Courtesy of Inside Edge on The Fan 97.1)

There was no shortage of drama surrounding Ryan Johansen during his tenure as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

From a contract holdout ahead of the 2014-15 season, to an apparent rift between the player and Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella this season, it was just a matter of time before the talented 23-year-old was on the move.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen pulled the trigger Wednesday, sending Johansen to the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenceman Seth Jones. While much discussion around the deal defaulted to Johansen’s relationship with Tortorella, Kekalainen denied that the trade had anything to do with his head coach.

Kekalainen joined Blue Jackets radio program The Inside Edge to discuss the trade.

“This has nothing to do with John Tortorella or his relationship with Ryan Johansen,” Kekalainen said. “Again, Ryan Johansen did nothing wrong…he’s a good player, he’s a good teammate, he’s liked by his teammates and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Kekalainen intimated that his pursuit of a legitimate top-pairing defenceman was the catalyst for shipping Johansen out of town. Jones is expected to provide some stability to the blue-line Columbus.

“This was just something that we felt we needed to address,” Kekalainen said. “We’ve been looking for a defenceman for a long time. Haven’t been successful with what we’ve tried to offer for a good defenceman. Here’s a defenceman who can be a No. 1, No. 2 defenceman for a good NHL team trying to win a championship. To get a guy like that you have to give up a significant piece and we did that with Ryan Johansen.”

Jones was a first-round pick (fourth overall) of the Predators in the 2013 NHL Draft. He’s totaled one goal and 11 points in 40 games this season.

Johansen is also a former fourth overall pick (2010). The 23-year-old centre has six goals and 26 points in 38 games in 2015-16.

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