NHL: Predators Deal Ryan Johansen to Avalanche

The Nashville Predators are adding to their retool by dealing one of their pricey veterans.

Four days before they were set to host the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft, they dealt center Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche for pending unrestricted free agent Alex Galchenyuk.

The Predators will retain 50% of Johansen’s contract, which carries an $8 million cap charge through the 2024-25 season, so the Avalanche will have him on their books at a $4 million price tag.

Avalanche Find their Second Line Center

What Colorado is looking to do is find their second line center that has avoided them since the departure of Nazem Kadri in the 2022 offseason, when he left to sign with the Calgary Flames on a seven-year, $49 million deal.

They chose to go from within to try and fill that void. That included JT Compher, who had a career year with 52 points this past season. However, he will be an unrestricted free agent this coming Saturday. Alex Newhook has been deployed in the second line center spot too, and even though he is talented in his status as a former first round pick, he’s not at that level yet.

Nashville hoped that Johansen was going to be their franchise centerpiece when they traded away defenseman Seth Jones to get him in 2016. It started off quite well, with 95 points in his first 124 games, which landed him the eight-year, $64 million contract in which he is on the seventh year of the deal.

However, since he started on that contract, he cracked the 60-point barrier just twice, those being the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons, where he had 64 and 63 points, respectively, with the latter season being the only time he had at least 25 goals (and also at least 20), finishing with 26. His third-highest total when under his current contract is 54 points, while he had less than 40 points in the other seasons, including 28 points this past season before he had emergency leg surgery on February, ending his season.

Johansen Looking for Career Resurgence

What the Avalanche are looking to do is revive his game. His offense has been on and off, but he is still someone who is a strong finisher and can capitalize on the power play. They’re taking on a reclamation project who they’re looking to fill at the dot at their second line and can win faceoffs.

Not many centers with two years of term who cost $4 million can be acquired for essentially nothing, so for Johansen, it is reasonable that the best possible route for him is a change of scenery, especially as he gets the chance to play with superstars Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar on the power play.

Colorado now has $8.5 million in cap space, though this doesn’t account for captain Gabriel Landeskog’s injury that will have him sit for the entire 2023-24 season. So, general manager Chris MacFarland will have $15.5 million to work with this offseason.

Predators Trade Away Expensive Contract

While this may be an underwhelming return for Nashville at first glance, new general manager Barry Trotz has got the Johansen contract off the books. He has seen his role getting reduced under former head coach John Hynes, watching his ice time fall to 15:46 per game, his lowest since his rookie season in 2011-12.

It also should be noted that Johansen (and Matt Duchene, to an extent) were both left exposed in the Seattle Expansion Draft. So, yes, it was time to move on.

In trading him away, the Predators are taking on an expiring contract and it opens up $4 million in cap space each of the next two seasons, so, basically, it’s a de facto buyout. If they actually went that route, they would have $2.667 million in dead cap through each of the next four seasons.

The only reason Alex Galchenyuk was included in this trade was for contract-matching purposes, and if he is not signed by Nashville, this trade essentially equates to a return of “future considerations,” which, in other words, means no return. He played just 11 games for the Avalanche last season, not scoring a point in any of them, while spending the bulk of the season with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, where he had 42 points in as many games. He’ll get another two-way contract this offseason.

Predators Clear Cap Space for Retool

Trotz is accelerating the retool after his predecessor, David Poile, who is set to retire after the upcoming Draft and move into a counseling role in Nashville’s front office, traded away four of his veterans at the trade deadline, those being Mattias Ekholm, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Tanner Jeannot.

Plus, getting full value for Johansen given the NHL is operating on a flat cap environment would be essentially impossible.

The downside is that this trade takes up their second of three retained salary slots through the 2024-25 season, as the other one is being used on Ekholm. The two retentions, along with the Kyle Turris buyout, puts the Predators at $6.25 million in dead cap this upcoming season.

But this trade gives them over $19.5 million in cap room if they were to be active in free agency to make this a quick retool, along with a roster spot for someone who could get more production for the team as they finished as one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL this past season.

Written by Alec Nava


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