How is the biggest trade thus far this season working out?
The NHL’s first major trade this season came earlier this month when the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators swapped star players. Columbus gave up a star forward in Ryan Johansen, and the Nashville Predators gave up a star defenseman in Seth Jones. It’s been a month since the trade happened, and it’s time to see how each player has impacted their respective teams.
Columbus - Seth Jones:
(Seth Jones is finding some success with his new home in Columbus - Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
When the trade happened, the Blue Jackets were still spinning their wheels going nowhere. They were 15-23-3 heading into the trade, and they were allowing 3.15 goals per game excluding shootout goals. Their defense was inconsistent and never found a rhythm. They allowed 46 goals in October, 30 in November, and 54 in December (and a few games in January). Their best defensemen were Kevin Connauton, Ryan Murray, and Fedor Tyutin who have all played at least half of the Blue Jackets’ games.
Connauton is a young defender and had the best plus-minus rating (+10) on the Blue Jackets’ defense. He was also one of the only defensemen on the team to have a good Fenwick For Percentage at 51.6% in his 27 games with Columbus. His biggest weakness was his physicality, where he had minimal blocks and hits (15 and 24 respectively and currently). Columbus waived him to make room for Jones, and he ended up being signed by the Coyotes.
(Kevin Connauton was actually a young, solid D-man that the Blue Jackets waived to make room for Jones. He was picked up by Arizona and continues to play - Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)
Murray is one of the mainstay players for the Jackets blue line, averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time per game. He is also their most productive defenseman with 17 points and a -3 plus-minus rating (which is considered ‘good’ on the Blue Jackets). He’s the team’s leader in blocks (91) but has a lackluster Fenwick For Percentage of 47.7% making him a liability with the puck.
Tyutin is the best defenseman on the team in terms of possession. His 51.5% Fenwick For Percentage is fifth on the team and is 1.2% better than the next defenseman (Dalton Prout). His takeaway-giveaway ratio isn’t too terrible at 0.55 (5 takeaways – 9 giveaways), and is fourth on the team in both blocks (39) and hits (89). He’s an all-around solid defenseman, but is one of the oldest players on the team and doesn’t add much offensive firepower.
(Fedor Tyutin was a well-rounded defenseman for the Jackets before getting injured - Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)
So the Blue Jackets had an obvious need for a strong, young, offensive-minded defenseman that could be a top-two liner right now. Seth Jones is that guy, and he’s already showing it. He’s already got seven points in 14 games with them, and now has the best plus-minus rating among defensemen on the team at +4. He is logging more ice time per game than David Savard, Murray, and Tyutin with 24:12 minutes and leading the team in possession at 52.9%. Jones slightly improves the defense by bringing the GAA down to 3.14. They have now gone 6-5-4 since he joined the team.
On the flip side, the Blue Jackets had plenty of depth at the forward position logging about 2.51 goals per game before the trade. Ryan Johansen had 26 points in 38 games with the Jackets, and losing him has decreased their production from 2.51 to 2.43 goals per game. Even though their offense had been improving gradually in scoring 25 goals in October, 35 in November, and 43 in December (and a few games in January), they’re feeling the loss of one of their best offensive players.
Trade Grade: B-
This trade, perhaps with the intent of having an immediate impact, is for the future. While the team has gotten slightly worse, the payoff will come in the next few seasons. Especially if Ryan Murray doesn’t re-sign with them next season.
Nashville – Ryan Johansen:
(Johansen has provided a slight boost to the Preds offense - Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Nashville was performing well with a 19-14-7 record before the trade, but they needed some offensive consistency to get ahead in the competitive Western Conference. They had 28 goals in October, 29 in November, and 45 in December (and a few games in January) which led to a 2.55 goals per game average excluding shootout goals.
Their defensive depth was already solid without Jones in the lineup, so it was a balanced and logical move for Nashville. Nashville is a possession-centric team; they thrive on keeping the puck, and the players excel at doing so. They allowed 2.63 goals per game (excluding shootout goals) before the trade and 2.73 goals per game after the trade. Not a massive increase for losing one of their budding, young superstar defensemen and one of their best possession-drivers (59.6%; tied for third on the team). They also seem to be picking up the slack with 19 of their 25 players having possession numbers above 50%.
(These guys make up the core of the Predators, even with the absence of Seth Jones - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Their best goal-scorers are James Neal (19), Filip Forsberg (17), Shea Weber (14), Roman Josi (11), and Craig Smith (11). They don’t have a 20+ goal-scorer yet, which is where Ryan Johansen can pitch in. In 14 games with the Predators, he already has 15 points and four goals. He’s also doing his part on defense with a +5 rating and a 54.3% Fenwick For Percentage (compared to 49.7% with the Blue Jackets). He currently has the most ice time per game at the center position (19:02) which is nearly two minutes more than what he was getting in Columbus.
The Predators are easier to analyze, because the risk isn’t as large. They didn’t need Seth Jones with their other talented defensemen, and they lacked a true number one center. And while their offense was still managing to score, they are now much more dynamic than they were before the trade with an offensive improvement from 2.55 to 2.64 goals per game (a 0.09 increase). They had to sacrifice some of their defensive strength, but they’re getting what they needed in offensive improvement. They’ve gone 6-7-1 after the trade.
The Predators are still racing for the postseason this year, and it’s no surprise they took a gamble on Johansen. Now they’ve balanced the team’s strength and have become a well-rounded team. Unlike the Blue Jackets, Johansen’s impact is being felt immediately, but he will also contribute for seasons to come.
Trade Grade: B
Judging from the charts below, it certainly seems that both teams have encountered immediate differences, but that the Predators barely win out.
Offensive standings, where Columbus is hovering around the low-possession, 2.2 goals per game area and Nashville is in the high-possession, 2.0 goals per game area.
On defense, Columbus still allows a lot of shots against them and a lot of goals against them (upper-right). Nashville fares much better allowing a lot less shots and less goals (middle-left).(Graphs taken from War on Ice)
Judging by immediate success, the Predators got a slightly better return. But numbers can be deceiving based on the talent around them. Jones is likely the best player on Columbus right now, but his numbers have drastically decreased since the trade. Johansen improved his numbers drastically when making the move to Nashville. It’s tough to say which team won the trade, but both players enhance their teams’ abilities.
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