When Tortorella benched his 23-year-old star for Thursday’s win in Arizona, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen publicly supported the decision. Speculation that the high-skilled No. 1 centre could be traded got cranked from a hum to a roar.
Sportsnet’s Doug MacLean, who led the Blue Jackets from 1998 to 2007, told Brady & Walker Friday on Sportsnet 590 The Fan that Columbus better exercise caution before pulling the trigger on a potentially damaging deal.
He cited the Bruins’ lopsided trade of superstar Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in 2013 as a comparable.
“Trust me on this: It’s got a chance to be the next Seguin trade,” MacLean said. “You’ve got to be careful.”
Seguin, arguably one of the NHL’s top five players, has flourished since being dealt to the Stars.
Johansen is coming off a career season, in which he racked up 71 points and impressed at the 2015 All-Star Game in Columbus.
Tortorella criticized the forward after just one game behind the Blue Jackets bench, and MacLean — admittedly not a big Tortorella supporter — made a few calls.
“When Torts went there, I talked to a couple of people that know Ryan really well. That was after Game 1 [after which Tortorella questioned Johansen’s fitness].
“They said, ‘Doug, trust me on this: I know this guy really well. This is a battle Torts will not win. He will not win a battle with this kid. That’s how hard-headed and stubborn he is. And he’s a big-time talent.'”
Columbus and Johansen memorably butted heads over a contract dispute that hovered over training camp in 2014, until the sides eventually agreed on a three-year deal.
Johansen, who has been prone to turnovers this season, took Thursday’s scratch in stride, saying the right things publicly.
“Full responsibility. My fault,” he said. “I’m going to use it as a positive and take this day to watch the guys and realize that I don’t want this to happen again.”
With Johansen watching from the press box, the Blue Jackets defeated Arizona 7-5. Their next game is Saturday versus Philadelphia.