TSN's Darren Dreger reports Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen is considered “softly in play” in the NHL trade market. Dreger claims Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn't actively shopping the 23-year-old Johansen, but he is at least listening when teams call with offers.
Johansen's name first surfaced in the rumor mill during the Jackets season-opening seven-game losing skid. That chatter died down after Todd Richards was replaced as head coach by John Tortorella.
Under Tortorella, the Jackets are 9-7-0 after 16 games. However, they remain mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. If they don't start gaining ground against the clubs ahead of them soon, their post-season hopes will once again fade away by the New Year.
Despite being hampered by a health issue earlier this season, Johansen remains tied for the Jackets' scoring lead. He was their leading scorer in 2013-14 and last season finished second behind Nick Foligno. He's currently on pace for a 65-point season, which would be the third consecutive year he's exceeded the 60-point plateau.
It seems unlikely the Jackets would trade away a rising talent. However, Dreger's colleague Frank Seravalli points out Johansen's contract history and relationship with Tortorella could affect his future in Columbus.
Johansen staged a holdout last year before inking a three-year, $12-million deal. Seravalli notes the final season is worth $6 million in actual salary, meaning the Jackets must give him a qualifying offer worth that much when he's eligible for RFA status (with salary-arbitration rights) before July 2017.
The young center also seems to have some difficulty adjusting to Tortorella's demanding style. Seravalli observes he was skating on the fourth line during Sunday's 6-3 loss to San Jose.
Since mid-October, Kekalainen's been in the market for a defenseman. Johansen would undoubtedly fetch a top-two blueliner (and maybe a high draft pick or top propsect as well), but that move would leave a big hole up front for the Jackets. If the Jackets' GM is willing to move Johansen, a deal of that magnitude likely won't get done until the off-season.
Earlier this month, reports claimed Kekalainen was shopping wingers Cam Atkinson and little-used Kerby Rychel, who's seen more game action of late. Perhaps he's showcasing Rychel in hopes of landing that elusive blueliner.
Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl's strong performance since being recalled from the minors (17 points in 11 games) prompted TSN's Ryan Rishaug to muse about what management might do once Connor McDavid returns from injury later this season.
If Draisaitl continues playing well, Rishaug notes that'll give the Oilers considerable depth at center. If so, he wonders if the Oilers would consider moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a top-two defenseman. His comment caused a bit of a stir among Oilers fans and a response from the Edmonton Journal's David Staples, who'd rather see the club dump one or two of their overpriced defensemen. He notes Nugent-Hopkins' value to the Oilers as a two-way center, suggesting it remains to be seen if Draisaitl is best served playing center or right wing.
Nugent-Hopkins isn't the only young Oilers forward to appear in this season's rumor mill. Wingers Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov have also popped up as potential trade bait for a top-pairing blueliner.
If GM Peter Chiarelli is unwilling to swap one of his talented young forwards for a defenseman, perhaps he'll consider using his 2016 first-round draft pick. Sportsnet's Damien Cox wonders if this could be the year they use a first rounder as leverage to bolster their roster.
With the Oilers among the league's worst teams, they could once again be in line for a high pick in the draft lottery. American forward Auston Matthews, who was tearing up the Swiss League in Zurich until suffering an upper-body injury, is considered by many scouts as the top prospect in the 2016 NHL draft. Carrying a roster already top heavy in young forwards, perhaps Chiarelli dangles that pick for a top-two rearguard.
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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