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Brent Burns and Ryan Johansen are still searching for their first goals

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Over the past two seasons Brent Burns held a commanding lead over every other defenseman in the league when it came to scoring goals.

His 56 goals during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons were 19 more than the next closest defenseman, Shea Weber, during that stretch.

The gap between him and Weber was as large as the gap between Weber and the No. 25 defenseman, John Carlson of the Washington Capitals. He has been such a dominant player offensively that he was also the seventh-leading scorer in the league regardless of position. He has produced goals and points like an elite forward and doing so as a defenseman. Other than Erik Karlsson there is not another defenseman in the league that is capable of that.

His dominance the past couple of seasons is what makes it so shocking that nearly a quarter of the way through the season he has yet to find the back of the net for the San Jose Sharks despite putting 65 shots on goal. Only eight players in the league have more shots on goal. He finished in the top-two in each of the past two seasons.

Given the standard Burns has set for himself over the past few years, as well as the fact he is still averaging more than four shots on goal per game (an absurd number for a defenseman) this drought to open the season seems to be nothing more than a cold streak due to some poor shooting luck. Burns is typically around a seven to eight percent shooter, which should have him at about five goals at this point given the number of shots on goal. In each of the past three seasons he had at least five goals at this point in the season.

Given the shot volume and his willingness to keep putting pucks on the net, as well as the fact he still has a 54 percent Corsi rating, it seems quite likely that he is probably on the verge of an offensive breakout.

Burns is not the only top player in the league still searching for his first goal at this point.

Down in Nashville, where the Predators are starting to get on a roll with wins in five consecutive games, top-line center Ryan Johansen is heading into game 18 this season without a goal.

Johansen’s goal drought is a little different than Burns’ at this point.

While Burns seems to be more about some percentage driven bad luck, Johansen simply is not giving himself many opportunities to score goals.

As of Wednesday Johansen has registered just 23 shots on goal in his first 17 games. Among forwards that have played at least 300 minutes of hockey this season only one (Valtteri Filppula) has recorded fewer shots on goal than Johansen.

Part of the lack of shots is the fact he has spent a large portion of the season playing alongside Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, two of the Predators’ best goal scorers and most willing shooters, resulting in Johansen taking on more of a playmaking role.

But he could also probably stand to be a little more selfish in some situations as he himself admitted this week to Adam Vingan of the Tennessean.

“Sometimes shooting the puck creates more opportunities for the guys on my wing and creating more opportunities to score goals,” said Johansen, who has 22 goals since being traded to Nashville nearly two years ago. “I think sometimes, especially at the start of this year, I’ve been a little too passive.

“I need to find ways to bring pucks to the net more often, which will lead to more opportunities for my wingers and more rebounds and chances and things like that.”

Overall his line is playing really well. They dominate possession, the other two guys are scoring goals, and the Predators as a team are starting to find success. After the addition of Kyle Turris and the return of Nick Bonino to the lineup they now have one of the best center trios in the Western Conference.

Still, with Johansen carrying around an $8 million per year price tag the Predators would probably like to see a little more goal production — and pucks at the net — from Johansen.

It is not like he doesn’t possess natural goal scoring ability, either. This is a guy that score 33 goals in the NHL as a 21-year-old then followed it up in his age 22 season with 26 more. When he was doing that he was averaging more more than 2.6 shots on goal per game. He is now barely averaging more than one shot per game. He can be that sort of goal scorer again, but not until he starts taking a few more shots when the opportunities present themselves.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Nashville Predators

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The Barry Trotz Bowl resumes Tuesday night as the Capitals visit the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Both teams enter the game playing well since the calendar turned to November. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom are all scoring while Braden Holtby has been superb in goal for Washington. Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson have been doing plenty of damage up front for Nashville, but they could really use some help from Ryan Johansen, who is without a goal through 16 games.

Watch the game tonight on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Also, for a preview of this game, check out this post.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL on NBCSN: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals visit Nashville Predators

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a meeting between the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

Both the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals enter Tuesday night’s matchup in good form. The Capitals have won five of their last six games, while the Predators have taken four of their last five.

Kyle Turris impressed in his Predators debut Saturday night, scoring a goal and assisting on another during a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. While one Nashville center looks to continue being productive, another one looks to finally get going.

Ryan Johansen has eight points on the year, but zero goals. Carrying an $8 million cap hit, he’s the highest paid forward without a goal this season.

“As an individual, I’ve just got to find ways to create more,” Johansen told Adam Vingan of The Tennessean. “It’s a role that I’m counted on from the guys here to contribute offensively.”

Tonight’s game will be the fourth time Barry Trotz returns to Nashville after leaving the Predators in 2014. The franchise’s first head coach helped build the team into a playoff contender and now he’s trying to make the most out of a Capitals side that sees its championship window closing.

They’re middle of the pack in scoring (2.82 goals per game) and on special teams (18.6 percent PP, 78.6 percent PK) and surprisingly next-to-last in shots per game (28.5). These aren’t the regular season Capitals we’re used to, but when changes happen on your roster, this can be expected.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Turris on Ottawa contract talks: ‘very apparent things weren’t going to work out’

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The negotiations were “healthy,” as Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion described, but while the team and the camp of Kyle Turris agreed on dollars, the term was a sticking point in trying to agree on an extension.

Turris was seeking the maximum term possible in eight years, but Dorion wasn’t too keen on investing in the player for that long.

“When it came to the contract negotiation, we just felt that there wasn’t going to be a lot of movement from 7-8 years,” Dorion said Monday morning. “Six years was never put on the table. At the same time, we’re OK with that.”

Turris confirmed during a conference call that six years wasn’t discussed at all by either side. “It was very apparent that things weren’t going to work out in Ottawa,” he said.

Six years, $36 million was what Turris ended up signing for after the three-way trade with the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators was completed on Sunday. When Predators GM David Poile was asked about any hesitance inking a 28-year-old to a long deal like that, he said they felt comfortable with the length.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

Turris only had a few hours to process and agree to a contract with the Predators, so after talking it over with his wife they agreed that Nashville would be a good fit.

“We’ve heard so many great things about the city, the people there, the neighborhoods, the school systems and obviously, the franchise is in such a great place,” he said.

The biggest deal of the young NHL season wouldn’t have been consummated, however, if Turris didn’t sign that extension. Poile said he started talking with Turris’s agent after the three teams agreed to the trade, and that the whole thing wouldn’t have gone through unless he had the center’s signature on a contract.

Turris, who likely won’t debut with his new team until the weekend, was in the final months of a five-year deal he signed with the Senators in 2012. Poile said that after the dust settled during free agency over the summer and he saw how the 2018 unrestricted free agent center market was shaping up, that’s when Turris jumped onto their radar.

This move strengthens the Predators down the middle adding Turris to a group that features Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok. Depending on how head coach Peter Laviolette sets it up, Bonino could move to a top-six wing spot, according to Poile.

MORE: Turris trade shows Predators are going all-in for Stanley Cup

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Turris trade shows Predators are going all-in for Stanley Cup

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If there was any doubt, acquiring and then extending Kyle Turris made this clear: the Nashville Predators are going all-in to win a Stanley Cup. Parting ways with two very promising prospects is just part of why they’re in win-now mode (or something close to it).

The tantalizing thing for Nashville is that they now boast arguably the most complete roster in the NHL, at least with a healthy Ryan Ellis and Nick Bonino.

  • The quartet of Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm probably still stands as the class of the league. If not, they’re so close you have to squint to see the difference against who’s better.
  • Suddenly, the Predators look deep at forward, especially at center.

Predators GM David Poile might be right when he calls Turris “one of the best two-way centers” in the NHL. Peter Laviolette must be getting his mad science lab ready for this – or at least cleaning out his line blender? – as Turris generates a domino effect that could help other forwards.

Ryan Johansen gets some support, which shouldn’t be underrated as his numbers have suffered a bit this season, even as his line with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson remains lethal.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

Turris can make a second line more dangerous with the likes of Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith, or perhaps Laviolette gets even more experimental than that? Either way, when healthy, Bonino seems like a much better fit as a third-line center. Other teams might have more dynamic forward groups, but the Predators no longer lack that necessary punch to win games.

Honestly, if I were David Poile, I’d consider trying to sign pending RFA Saros to a bargain extension, possibly allowing Saros to become the Matt Murray to Rinne’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

Big decisions coming (and big bargains going away)

With Turris in tow, the Predators are locked into several players for at least four years: Turris, Johansen, Forsberg, Arvidsson, Bonino, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm and Calle Jarnkrok. According to Cap Friendly, the Predators have $53.1M going to 12 players in 2019-20 and $43.1M to just eight in 2020-21.

Some of those contracts are outright steals, but even so, those commitments may force others out, eventually. There are some key choices coming soon, making it that much more obvious for Nashville to go win-now.

Significant names expiring after 2018-19: Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis, and Kevin Fiala (Fiala will be an RFA).

With a $2.5M cap hit, Ryan Ellis ranks as one of the NHL’s most staggering bargains. These are the types of deals that give you an edge, but it’s ending soon, and you can’t begrudge Ellis if he wants to get paid what he’s worth. That might end up being too much for Nashville.

Then again, Rinne’s $7M expires in the same summer of 2019. Poile must determine what to do with Saros and Rinne, and those net deadlines aren’t far away.

Key deals expiring after 2019-20: Roman Josi and Craig Smith.

Much like Ellis, Josi is a bargain at $4M, but that goes away in three seasons.

Maybe Poile is just planning to move money from the likes of Rinne and Smith to the likes of Ellis, Josi, and Saros? Even if that works out, the point is that Nashville would possibly need to go top-heavy, losing some of the edge they have now.

Poile is pushing the right buttons

The overall point is not that the Predators can only complete for a title between now and 2018-19 or 2019-20.

We’ve seen teams enjoy deep runs when it seemed like their peaks passed; it’s easy to forget that the 2015-16 San Jose Sharks were far from a favorite to represent the West when they did.

Still, the Predators can look to other champions to see some examples of small windows of bargains paying off. When their rival the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in decades, they did it as rookie contracts were expiring for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Poile seems shrewd enough to keep his Predators in the thick of things for a while, but from here, the next few years represent Nashville’s biggest window to win it all. From there, their ceiling could get shorter.

MORE: Turris on Ottawa contract talks: ‘very apparent things weren’t going to work out’

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.