Somebody must have forgotten to alert the media that Wednesday was the trade deadline. After months of basically no NHL trades, there was one free-agent signing and two trades, including a blockbuster du jour — Columbus and Nashville swapping young stars Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones.
That drew the attention of Wild fans who were praying the hometown team could swing a deal for Johansen.
Of course, watching Johansen play the Wild the night before would have been enough to scare off any GM. It also could have been the final straw in causing Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen to pull that trigger.
Johansen, 23, has looked out of sorts all year and was especially so against the Wild. Maybe it’s confidence, drive or energy right now, but all three were missing from Johansen’s game Tuesday.
Still, this is a kid who is ridiculously talented and finished 16th in league scoring a season ago.
In theory, this was an old-fashioned hockey trade — what should be a future No. 1 center for a future No. 1 defenseman.
The Predators are very deep on defense, were going to have to soon pony up cash for Jones and their top two scorers are defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi. At some point they needed a young forward who could score, and they’ve been looking for a cornerstone center for years.
The Blue Jackets’ blue line is a wreck, in part because they’ve been unlucky with Ryan Murray’s health. Most assumed that if you’re going to trade a future No. 1 center — a position all teams covet — that it would take multiple pieces.
It would have if you’re the Wild, and the way Johansen is playing, giving up a couple of pieces now could have made the Wild worse the rest of the season.
In order for the cap-strapped Wild to acquire Johansen ($4 million cap hit, but he makes $6 million in 2016-17, meaning his qualifying offer would be $6 million), it would have needed to shed salary.
That likely meant defenseman Jonas Brodin, who last year signed a six-year contract worth a shade less than $4.2 million annually. But is Brodin considered a No. 1 defenseman? Would Kekalainen be able to sell the subtleties of Brodin’s smart, mobile game to his fan base when Johansen’s value is so tangible?
The only way Kekalainen would have traded Johansen straight up for a D is if that D was an Aaron Ekblad-type. In Kekalainen’s mind, Jones, a player some felt could have gone No. 1 in the 2013 draft, is. He ultimately went fourth (the same spot Johansen went in 2010) behind Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Drouin.
Not getting Johansen doesn’t change the fact the Wild may need something to get over the hump, perhaps a No. 1 center.
Mikko Koivu’s having a renaissance season, but he’s 32. Mikael Granlund, after averaging eight goals and 40 points the past two seasons, is on a two-year, “let’s see if you can break out” bridge contract. He is on pace for eight goals and 49 points this season. Charlie Coyle has been one of the Wild’s best players the past month, but he’s also the guy coach Mike Yeo moves up and down the lineup, often moving him to right wing.
So, where does the Wild go from here? Don’t get your hopes up for Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar. Eric Staal’s on the downslope of his career, and David Backes, maybe available in the offseason, is 31.
Drouin wants out of Tampa Bay, but he’s a winger. Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is available, but is he better than Granlund? Logan Couture may make sense with San Jose sitting near the bottom of the West, but Couture’s injuries are a concern.
The one thing we know: If GM Chuck Fletcher showed interest in Johansen, he recognizes a need and will continue to scour the league. But young No. 1 centers aren’t available every day and the Wild may have missed its chance.
NHL SHORT TAKES
Former Wild enforcer John Scott (left), the subject of an Internet campaign meant as a joke, says he will participate in the NHL All-Star Game as captain of the Pacific Division.
“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to be made a joke of, I don’t want to be an embarrassment, I don’t want to embarrass the game in that way,” Scott told Fox Sports Arizona. “I talked to some people, I talked to a lot of former players and everyone just said, ‘Go have fun with it and it’ll be a good experience.’ ”
Scott is one of the funniest players in the NHL, and the All-Star Game is meant to be fun.
The format of the All-Star Game — six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies in a 3-on-3 tournament — may be more of a joke than Scott making the team. Each division either has seven or eight teams and every team must be represented. That meant tons of snubs.
If you did the math, the Wild’s Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise had no shot to begin with, and by process of elimination, it seemed a shoo-in back in November that goalie Devan Dubnyk would represent the Wild.
Defenseman Ryan Suter had no shot when the league decided to give host Nashville three representatives out of 11, including two defensemen. And when the league wasn’t going to snub Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, it meant Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler couldn’t make the Central Division’s team. That put Dustin Byfuglien on the team, eliminating young Dallas defenseman John Klingberg.
Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones, traded for each other Wednesday, ran into each other at the Columbus airport — Jones arriving, Johansen leaving for Nashville. They took a picture together, one Johansen posted on Instagram.
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Sunday: vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. (NBCSN). Tuesday: vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m. (FSN Plus). Friday: vs. Winnipeg, 7 p.m. (FSN). Saturday: at Nashville, 7 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch: Jack Eichel, Buffalo
The second overall pick in last June’s draft ranks fourth in rookie scoring.
“The last 365 days have been pretty crazy, and it’s another thing to add to that story.” — Goalie Devan Dubnyk on making the All-Star Game.