The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue jackets consummated
a trade to get Ryan Johansen by sending Seth Jones the other way. And, in doing
so, the Blue Jackets helped the Oilers avoid losing a trade handedly.
The table for the deal was set the moment the Blue Jackets
sided with controversial head coach John Tortorella over their franchise centre.
Johansen was allowed to be made a healthy scratch, and the heart condition that
prevented him from starting the year at peak conditioning was not considered
much of an excuse by Torts, it seems.
The trade is a hockey deal through and through, but one that
doesn’t happen if the Jackets don’t feel the need to move on from Johansen. The
Blue Jackets lost this deal in the present and are banking on potential to even
out the deal down the road. The entire trade is predicated on Columbus being
perfectly fine shipping away a 1C for maybe a second pairing defender.
Let’s assume that the Oilers were also a potential trading
partner with the Predators. The team is not moving McDavid or Draisaitl. That
leaves Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the Johansen comparable moving the other way for Jones in this hypothetical scenario. That
is simply not a good deal for the Edmonton Oilers.
Seth Jones was slated as a potential first overall in his draft year. He fell all the way down to fouth and the
Predators had no choice but to take him even though they didn’t need
defensemen. The problem is that things haven’t taken off for Jones the way they
were supposed to. Unless he really breaks loose in Columbus his career high
will be the 27 points he produced last year. This was a player who was supposed
to bring offence from the blue line and that isn’t happening yet in his third
If we look at Jones’ usage with the Predators it might be easy
to conclude, based on his TOI/G, that Jones is a second pairing defender
at 21 years of age. That’s nothing to sneeze at, even for a former fourth
The problem is that if we look a little bit closer we
see that isn’t actually the case with Jones. He is fourth in TOI/G,
just eight seconds fewer per match than Ryan Ellis. That might make one believe he
and Ellis are partners on the second pairing, but that would also be incorrect.
At even strength, Jones has played 460 of his 570 5v5 minutes with Barrett
Jackman on the third pairing. The extra minutes that make up his
elevated TOI/G come from playing almost 2:30 a night on the PP.
Seth Jones is currently a third pairing defenceman
who was getting a serious push on the man-advantage. In addition, the
Jackman-Jones pairing was given a significantly easier starting position as
often as was possible. The duo lead the Predators’ blueline in offensive zone
starts. Jones received 37.2% OZ Starts and Ellis received the next highest all
the way down to 32.7%. And, let’s keep in mind, even with that big offensive
push the points are not coming for Seth Jones.
Meanwhile, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on pace for another season
near his career high of 56 points, and pundits believe he has more offence
to give. He plays more per game than either Seth Jones or Ryan Johansen. He’s
also has a head coach that believes in him and defends him from misguided
criticism from the media as compared to Johansen who was thrown directly under
the bus by his coach.
Yes, I think the Oilers could have been in on Seth Jones,
but it would have apparently cost the team RNH. Unlike the Blue Jackets, the
Edmonton Oilers are probably not fine with the idea of trading their most used
centreman for a third pairing defender who isn’t scoring despite getting
lots of sugar time.
Seth Jones is still young enough to develop into the player
he was supposed to be on draft day – 21 years old is still infancy for NHL
rearguards. Maybe, just maybe, in a few years this deal will balance out, but that’s
no sure thing. Have we seen anything from Seth Jones that suggests he’s
bubbling under, ready to break out? The team with the best eye for blueliners
in the NHL had him on their bottom pairing, and sheltered in the offensive zone.
The Oilers can’t afford to give up talented players for a handful of “maybes”
and some “just mights.”
Trading the Nuge for Jones would have been a loss for the
Oilers no different than it has been a loss for the Blue Jackets. For that
reason I’m thankful for John Tortorella and the willingness Columbus found to
make a deal they could surely lose in both the short and long term. It saves
the Oilers from making that exact same mistake.