West Coast Bias: Oilers made big push for Seth Jones

Seth Jones sat down with Elliotte Friedman a few days after changing from a Predator to a Blue Jacket to discuss his reaction to the trade and fitting into a new team.

Multiple sources have confirmed to Sportsnet that Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli offered centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Nashville in a bid to land defenceman Seth Jones.

Chiarelli had no comment on this report, neither confirming nor issuing a denial when reached. And of course, Nashville general manager David Poile chose to deal Jones to Columbus for Ryan Johansen instead. What it tells us is that Chiarelli sees Nugent-Hopkins as the one player from the Oilers former core that can command the greatest return — yet at the same time is expendable.

Meanwhile, Taylor Hall has played himself into the “going forward” group of Oilers Top 6 forwards, with an excellent season thus far.

A source explained that Johansen’s size advantage — he’s 6-foot-3 and 218 lbs., compared to 6-foot, 189 lbs. for Nugent-Hopkins — tipped the scales, as it were. Poile wanted size to go up against the plethora of big Western Conference centres, a group that includes the very player that has made Nugent-Hopkins expendable in Edmonton: the 6-foot-2 Draisaitl.

Comparing the two players is an interesting exercise. RNH is from Burnaby, Johansen from Vancouver; Johansen went No. 4 overall in the 2010 draft, RHN was No 1 the next year; both have played five NHL seasons, with Nugent-Hopkins holding a slight edge in points-per-game (0.719 to 0.636).

Nugent-Hopkins’s totals read 73-144-217 in 302 games; Johansen’s go 81-118-199 in 313 games. RNH shoots left and Johansen right, the latter preferred, I believe, by most GMs.

Contract-wise, the race isn’t close, however. Nugent-Hopkins is locked up for five seasons past this one at $6 million per with an AAV of the same number. That means he is locked up for his prime years — assuming he matures into good value at that number.

Johansen, on the other hand, makes $3 million this season, $6 million next, and carries an AAV of $4 million. But he’ll have to be qualified at over $6 million in the summer of 2017. Poile’s choice will be to QO Johansen for one year, after which he becomes unrestricted, or do a long-term deal at a number that will could well start with “8” depending on Johansen’s production.

We conducted an informal, anonymous poll among a dozen NHL scouts, analysts and front office types on Friday, asking the simple question: “You can only have one of Nugent-Hopkins or Johansen. Which one would you choose?” (No employees of the Predators, Oilers or Blue Jackets were included in the poll.)

By deadline, nine had cast their vote. The result: Nugent-Hopkins 5, Johansen 4.

It’s not in any way scientific. But it does show how close the value of the two players is among objective eyes in the game. The hardest part is youth. At 22, how much better could Nugent-Hopkins be in a couple of years?

And the same goes for Johansen.

Trade Call

As for the Jones-Johansen trade, it’s crazy to think that the two teams — Nashville and Columbus — have forged a record of 1-5-0-2 between them heading into the weekend. And it’s not because the newcomers haven’t been productive.

Jones has just one assist in four games as a Blue Jacket, but he is playing four minutes more per night than he had in Nashville. Johansen has six points in four games with the Predators since the trade, but the Preds have only one loser point since his arrival.

You can’t ask for a bigger shakeup in either dressing room, yet Nashville has been passed by Colorado in the Central, and the Blue Jackets are inexplicably the 30th place team in the NHL. There is no chance the Jackets avoid a 13th playoff miss in their 15-year existence.

I was one of the many who picked CBJ as a playoff team. Crazy…

Cody Kassian and Zack Hodgson
Speaking of two first-rounders being dealt for each other, how about the parallel universes of Zack Kassian and Cody Hodgson? Their stories bumped into each other again this week as Hodgson cleared waivers in his way to AHL Milwaukee, while Kassian was on his way up from the minors.

Hodgson, the former 10th overall pick by Vancouver, ended up on a one-year deal in Nashville worth $1.05 million this season, but gave the Preds only 3-5-8 in 39 games before clearing waivers.

“I think we gave him a good opportunity,” Poile told The Tennessean. “That’s for him to (decide) whether he agrees or not.”

Meanwhile Kassian, the former Sabres first-rounder who was dealt straight up for Hodgson in 2012, arrived in Edmonton’s dressing room Thursday after a long and winding trail. He played 14:23 in a shootout loss to the Sharks, and visually, looks to have lost considerable weight.

He’ll need to find consistency – something neither Kassian not Hodgson has ever grasped in the NHL — in order to remain with the Oilers.

Here Come The Champs

Look out for the Blackhawks. Chicago is hockey’s hottest club, taking a nine-game winning streak into the ACC to play the Maple Leafs Friday.

And the former hottest team in the West? Well, Dallas just watched Chicago whiz right up to their side atop the Central Division in the standings.

“It’s no surprise to myself or Johnny Oduya,” ex-Hawk Patrick Sharp, now a Stars forward, told Dallas radio. “The Hawks find a way to keep reloading every year. If you’re going to go where you wanna go, you’re probably going to have to go through Chicago.”

Stamp of Approval

Apropos of nothing, check out this stamp that hit post offices in Finland on Friday.

It’s worth noting that, as the World Juniors were once gain fabulously entertaining, there’s something about amateur sports that fans have come to like, when compared to the pros. The BCS Bowl was easily the best football game of the week last week, because the kids make mistakes and have lapses in team structure that cause points to be scored.

Same with hockey, where NHL coaches have structured the game to the point where the average goals scored per game (5.207) is almost as dire as it was in 2003-04, when teams combined for 5.136 goals per game in the final season before the lockout.

Structure, predictability and shot-blocking may work for coaches. But it doesn’t work for fans that want to see a few more goals for their buck.

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