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Colorado Avalanche acquire Ryan Johansen from Nashville Predators

In exchange for Alex Galchenuk’s UFA rights, Nashville retained 50% of Johansen’s salary.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Nashville Predators Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators surprised the hockey world with a trade early Saturday morning sending second-line center Ryan Johansen to Colorado in exchange for AHL veteran Alex Galchenyuk’s unrestricted free-agent rights.

Johansen, the fourth overall pick by Columbus in the 2010 NHL Draft, played eight seasons in Nashville after four with the Blue Jackets and has racked up 555 points in 842 games over his 12-year career. Galchenyuk went third to Montreal in 2012 and has scored 354 points in 654 games while bouncing around the league for ten years, though almost all of those points came with the Canadiens from 2012-2018.

It sounds lopsided, but Nashville under new GM Barry Trotz was looking to move on from Johansen, 30, after a leg injury limited him to 55 games last season. He ends his Predators tenure as a bit of a disappointment - when the team swapped Seth Jones for him in 2016 he was expected to emerge as a true no. 1 center, and after a stellar first season and a half with the team netted him and $8x8 deal he settled in as a productive no. 2.

Johansen’s $8 million cap hit for the next two seasons and recent injury history made him seemingly untradeable in the flat-cap NHL, but at just $4 million he has a chance to outplay his contract if he can stay in the lineup. It is surprising that retaining half the contract still only net the Predators' Galchenyuk, who they might try to sign as an NHL/AHL tweener but could just as easily let walk to UFA in July.

Galchenyuk and Johansen have some parallels, as neither was able to live up to their early career hype, but Galchenyuk has been fighting to stay in the NHL for years now. He came to Colorado on a PTO and impressed enough that he seemed to be in the running for a bottom 6 job before a leg injury of his own derailed his chances. The Avs clearly liked him, as they signed him to a two-way deal once he got healthy and gave him multiple call-ups to prove he belonged with the big club, but he simply didn’t make an impact.

This is a very good piece of business from the Avalanche perspective, the second deal of the offseason for Colorado that saw them bring in a player for next to nothing following the Fredrik Olofsson acquisition for future considerations last week. Assuming he is able to stay healthy (a big assumption around here after last season, I know) Ryan Johansen for $4 million is a much better gamble than any of the free-agent centers available, and he’ll come off the books in time for Mikko Rantanen’s next contract.

Johansen should slot into Colorado’s lineup as a second-line center with defensive support from Val Nichushkin on his right wing and goal-scoring on his left wing from either Alex Newhook or a winger signed in free agency. What do you think of the move? Let us know in the comments below!