By Ron Wynn
The Nashville Predators solved the biggest piece of their off-season puzzle last Friday, signing center Ryan Johansen to an eight-year, $64 million dollar contract. They had obtained him in January of 2016 from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade for defensemen Seth Jones, hoping he could finally give them the number one center they had been seeking most of their existence. Off his performance this past season, and up until his injury in the playoffs that prevented him from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final, he had given them exactly what they wanted.
In fact the case could be made that Johansen exceeded their expectations in terms of playmaking, offense and defense. He teamed with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson to give the Predators a top line that statistically ranked at the top of the NHL in terms of percentage of shot attempts when on the ice together. According to the website daterink.com, they controlled 58.9 percent of total shot attempts during that time. But more importantly they combined for 180 points as a unit. “I really feel in these next eight years, we’re going to do really well,” David Poile, Predators general manager, told USA Today when discussing the signing. “And when we do really well, Ryan Johansen is going to be a big, big factor in all of our winning.”
In addition, the Predators now have their top line under salary and cap control for years to come. Advidsson had previously signed a new contract July 22. It was for seven years and $29.75 million. Forsberg is only in the second year of his own six-year deal worth $36 million.
“There’s no better place to be right now,” Johansen added.”As we were going through the process, that’s what it was all about from the start. The class that they’ve shown with myself and committing and trusting me and believing in me for these next eight years is just so humbling.”
Now the Predators can concentrate on the upcoming training camp, then hopefully get off to a good start next season. What made the Stanley Cup push so impressive was that they did it as not only the second wild card team, but the one with the lowest number of regular season points. Considering how much home ice meant to them, with every home and playoff game sold out, a better regular season record would mean even more playoff contests held at Bridgestone Arena next season. Possibly having home ice advantage for multiple rounds could be the thing that pushes them not just into the Final, but ultimately to winning the Stanley Cup.