The Nashville Predators secured Ryan Johansen to a long-term deal Friday. But it was in January of 2016 that the franchise made a drastic change by parting ways with a talented defensive prospect to acquire a young, elite center.
Originally selected fourth overall by Nashville in 2013, Seth Jones enjoyed a breakout 2016-17 season with 12 goals and 42 points. He did so as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, having been the key piece leaving Nashville the year before when Predators general manager David Poile went after Johansen.
That move has benefited Columbus, which will look to build on a franchise record-setting season. But the Predators have emerged as a formidable yet still up-and-coming team in the Western Conference.
The play of their top four defensemen, especially during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, was widely praised. So, too, was the performance of goalie Pekka Rinne. Nashville also boasts a top line of Johansen, Filip Forsberg, who has back-to-back 30-goal seasons, and Viktor Arvidsson, who recently cashed in on his 31-goal breakout regular season.
That trio not only had great bottom line production last season, but they dominated possession, too, with Corsi For ratings all above 55 per cent together at five-on-five. Johansen is the oldest of the three, as he will celebrate his 25th birthday on Monday.
They are all locked into long-term deals, with age still on their side.
“A year and a half ago, we made a deal with Columbus to pick up Ryan, and I think everyone would agree that was somewhat of… a turning point in our franchise,” Poile told the Predators website.
“In [these contract] negotiations, his agent used a line that ‘Ryan’s a driver of our team,’ and I totally concur with that. I really feel in these next eight years, we’re going to do really well, and when we do really well, Ryan Johansen’s going to be a big, big factor in all of our winning.”
After making it to Game 7 of the second round in 2016, the Predators advanced to the Stanley Cup Final as a wild card team in 2017. Johansen was unable to play in the championship series due to postseason-ending surgery he had following an acute compartment syndrome diagnosis during the Western Conference Final.
Per Adam Vingan of The Tennessean, Johansen is expected to be ready to participate in full when training camp opens in September.