The Tennessean's Josh Cooper suggests the Nashville Predators should attempt to sign Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen to an offer sheet. He considers it a low-risk move, believing the young center would be a more permanent solution to their issues at the position than Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro.
Contract talks between Johansen and the Blue Jackets remain stalled. The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports there's no sign of progress between the two camps. GM Jarmo Kekalainen insists there's plenty of time to work out a deal before training camp opens next month.
Portzline notes Johansen is coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights, giving the young center little leverage except the threat of staging a contract holdout. Earlier this summer the two sides seemed to reach an agreement on term (two years), but there's a significant gap in salary. Portzline reports the Jackets are believed to be offering between $3.5 million and $4 million annually, while the Johansen camp seeks upward of $7 million per season.
If the Blue Jackets failed to match a potential offer sheet the Predators would gain a promising offensive forward, while giving up some first round draft picks as compensation. But Kekalainen said his club would match any offer, though that would mean signing the center to a deal worth far more than the Jackets were originally willing to pay.
Despite Cooper's suggestion it's unlikely the Predators will make a pitch for Johansen. His addition would create a logjam at center, especially considering Mike Fisher (currently sidelined by a ruptured Achilles tendon) could return by the end of November. One of those veteran centers would have to be moved.
The Predators are a budget-conscious club whose payroll for this season is just above $57 million, close to the league minimum $51 million. Assuming they sign Johansen for $7-million annually, their cap payroll would get pushed to well over $64 million, probably higher than the team's ownership prefers.
If the Predators want a more permanent solution to their depth issues at center this season the best route is via trade. They've got blueline depth to draw from as trade bait for a scoring forward. Weber would attract the best return, but Poile has repeatedly stated he won't be dealt. Promising Seth Jones would also attract serious interest in the trade market, but he's considered Weber's heir apparent. Roman Josi was re-signed last summer to a seven-year deal and remains part of their long-term plans. Sophomore Mattias Ekholm has promise, but his trade value isn't that high right now.
The Predators are also still negotiating with puck-moving blueliner Ryan Ellis. Like Johansen, Ellis is coming off an entry-level contract. He's got good offensive skills, but his trade value right now probably won't fetch a scorer unless he's packaged with another player, a draft pick or a prospect.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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