David Poile, you are fearless. You make deals that most GMs don’t have the cajones to make. You sent your captain to Montreal for P.K. Subban, and before that, you dashed Seth Jones off to Columbus for WHAT YOU THOUGHT would be the NUMBER ONE CENTER this franchise has both been looking for and needed desperately for since the beginning of time.
The trade deadline is March 1st, but this year things might get done a little sooner. The Preds are in the midst of a four game homestand, with games coming up against Calgary, Colorado, Washington and Edmonton.
Yesterday, Calgary popped the cork, acquiring Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a third round pick in the upcoming draft. A conditional fifth round pick, a year later will go to Colorado if Stone re-signs with Calgary when his deal is up at the end of the season.
Colorado arrives on Thursday with some baggage they are looking to unload. Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog are allegedly “on the block.” Teams are supposed to be ponying up a king’s ransom for either of these two blue-chip forwards. Let’s look under the hood.
Third overall in the 2o09 Entry Draft, and joined the Avalanche immediately as an 18 year old in the 09-10 season. Scored 55 points and immediately established himself as an elite NHL player. Has hit the 30 goal plateau (last season) and hit a career high 70 points in 71 games during 2013-14. Duchene is set to be a free agent after the 18-19 season, and is currently making $6M. The alleged price is a high draft pick, a prospect, and an established top pairing defenseman.
There was reason to believe the Predators might be a good fit, and reports circulated that “all it would take,” was a Mattias Ekholm, perhaps a Kevin Fiala, and the Preds top pick in the upcoming draft.
But wait, perhaps, David Poile, if you act now, there could be more…
What if you entertained the idea of grabbing both Duchene and Landeskog? Now THAT would be the completion of a trifecta of deals that would send the NHL into a complete tailspin!
Second overall in the 2011 Entry Draft, and like Duchene, joined the Avs immediately as an 18 year old in the 11-12 season. Scoring 52 points, again, like Duchene established himself as an elite NHL player from the very beginning. Has played four full seasons and scored between 52 and 65 points, as well as 20 goals in each full campaign. The bulky Swede is signed through the 20-21 season, and is paid roughly $5.6M each season.
Oh, did I mention Landeskog wears uniform number 92? Do you see where I am going here?
I am sure the Avalanche would love to get their hands on Ryan Johansen, almost as much as the Predators would love to give him a touching tribute on Thursday. Johansen, who, if I was a voting member of the NHL’s media, would get my vote for league’s Most Valuable Player this season, by virtue of his SUBTRACTION from the roster of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are currently seeing a league best turnaround from last year’s tough campaign. Ask John Tortorella. Ask Jarmo Kekalainen. Ask Jody Shelley. The Blue Jackets are a MUCH better team now that they have rid themselves of this creampuff prima donna who had the nerve to complain to the media about not getting a video tribute upon his return to Columbus this past Sunday. As if a big Preds win wasn’t enough, let’s shine the light on THIS GUY.
This guy, who, the night before, along with his linemates Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg each were a nifty -4 in a 5-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild (and yes, the other Minnesota goal was a PPG, hence no minus given.) This guy, who, despite leading his team in scoring (9G, 31A for 40 points) has actually been held off the scoresheet in 32 of the team’s 58 games. This guy, who has just 22 even strength points this season, which ranks him somewhere tied with nineteen other players at 130th in the league. The man is the number one center, drawing a paycheck of $6M this season, has hamstrung his former team for a contract that sent him packing once, and now he’s set to be a free agent in this off season, and surely will have the audacity to ask for a raise. Oh, those 22 even strength points puts him on par with Casey Cizikas, Antoine Roussel, Connor Brown, Lee Stempniak, Sven Baertschi, and a few defensemen like your old friend Ryan Suter, Matt Niskanen, Jared Spurgeon and Dougie Hamilton. Household names like Brady Skjei and Nick Holden have 23. Sinful.
Johansen is 6’3. A big BC boy, weighing in somewhere around 218 pounds. This guy plays the perimeter. An adept passer who rarely finds himself winning a single board battle because he’s rarely found within 5 feet of the boards, Johansen has certainly showcased what he can do in a Preds uniform. He can skate, he can pass, he can shoot, he can score, and he can pout about video tributes. What he has done best is pout. The team flounders with a win one-lose one kind of record, heading into a stretch run that doesn’t GUARANTEE a post season berth, but with the dogfight they find themselves in with Los Angeles and Calgary (chances are two of these three teams will be the two wildcard participants from the Western Conference) players like Johansen need to step up the level of intensity, and frankly, we’ve only seen it in his game MAYBE six or seven times this season. Sure the fans think he’s peachy-keen, but this whole “he leads our team in scoring” nonsense would only work for me if the team was in one of those top three seeds in the Central Division, far ahead of any competition that might be considered a threat come post-season time.
Let’s make it easy for everyone concerned and give Colorado the larger, less tough #92. He can dazzle them with his brilliance or baffle them with his bullshit as he has done in both Columbus and Nashville over the past few years. While we’d give up a couple inches, and/or a couple pounds, based on what we see night in and night out from players like Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis, it takes heart more than body mass on most occasions. I’ve said it a dozen times. Arvy’s heart in Johansen’s body and you have a $10M player. Conversely, Johansen’s heart in Arvy’s body and it’s Friday Night Beer League Hockey in Kelowna.
So we give up Johansen. Do we have to give up Ekholm? Do we have a suitable replacement? It get’s tricky. Subban, Josi and Weber are an impressive top 3. Matt Irwin has shocked most with his more than adequate play over the course of the season, but he’s hardly going to be up to the standards of just a couple seasons ago when you could boast Ekholm, Jones and a veteran like Volchenkov or Jackman to round out one of the, if not the best top 6 in the NHL. The good news for the Preds is that guys like Girard, Fabbro, Carrier, Dougherty are all coming up in the system, and will compete for NHL jobs before this decade is out.
I’m not totally advocating giving up a guy like Ekholm. In fact, I advocate Coach Laviolette putting him BACK with Ryan Ellis and restoring some semblance of defense to the team, so that they are not giving up quite the number of shots and chances they seem to put their goaltenders through on a game in/game out basis. So MAYBE it’s a three way deal with Johansen being the component to GET the defenseman that Colorado covets.
Would the New York Rangers want Johansen the way they wanted Nash years back? It’s the same story. Gifted player, mediocre work ethic, losing culture… or perhaps the Caps would cough up a Karl Alzner, ready for a contract soon. Columbus themselves would laugh at reacquiring Johansen obviously, but maybe they feed him to Colorado as a method of ridding themselves of Jack Johnson, who would slot right into the Avs’ turnover selection at the bakery counter.
There are ways to get creative, and I’m all for it. Let’s pay homage and tribute to a guy that deserves everything he has coming to him, and let’s get Johansen the video he so richly deserves. You can start editing by inserting a clip of him missing an empty net opportunity from last week, and then go back from there. Each game gives you at least one honest and open attempt at something spectacular that ends up craptacular or just plain crap.
Will I take flack? Of course I will, but if Mr. Poile is reading this, know there will be only tears of JOY if, in fact, he can find a nice home for a soft puppy who needs a warm bed and a hug since he didn’t get his video tribute. (There there now…)