The Rangers have always gone after the big names, most recently of course Keith Yandle and Martin St Louis. The following months will likely see a lot more big names changing address both in-season as well during the summer and free agency. Ryan Johansen, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Marleau, and even Evgeni Malkin are the source of rumours.
A lot of noise has been made recently about the Ryan Johansen situation. The big, young center is a phenomenal talent but has been through turbulent times in Columbus on and off the ice, including an acrimonious contract negotiation over a year ago.
Recently, Johansen has been scratched and apparently had problems with John Tortorella as well as being inconsistent with his performances on the ice. But Johansen’s talent is undeniable, and his upside almost unlimited, which is why so many teams are linked to the big center. Johansen (as an FYI) is on course for unrestricted free agency in 2018 at just 26.
On the face of things Johansen isn’t an obvious need for the Rangers. With Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard, the team are well catered for at center particularly if Kevin Hayes and/or JT Miller develop as hoped. In those circumstances the Rangers would be legitimately three deep at center. However, we have seen the trouble that one injury (Stepan) can cause. We have also seen how Hayes’ slump, and JT Miller and Derick Brassard’s up and down play impact the team.
Johansen however is a game changing center and on bad/upstart Columbus teams the past two years he put up 63 and 71 point seasons and his career highs in all offensive categories outmatch Stepan and Brassard. Johansen is also a big boy at 223lbs and 6’3 so would give the Rangers a real big center that they have not had for a long time (since Lindros?).
Even in a season where Columbus are struggling and Johansen has struggled, he is on course for another solid season and the assumption is surely there that with better linemates and on a better team he could reach an 80-90 point level. The Rangers would love a center of that ilk.
Do the Rangers need to change the roster and mix it up? Would Johansen thrive in a big market or would his apparent immaturity and/or ‘me first attitude’ be issues in Manhattan? Could the Rangers afford to keep him long term? All legitimate questions and concerns that need answering.
The Rangers and Columbus have an extensive recent trade history so a trade could likely be made. The Rangers would love size and be able to add more talent up front and the Blue Jackets would likely benefit from additional defensive help, not to mention making a clean cut from Johansen and saving face. And of course, if Tortorella is the long term solution in Columbus would Dan Girardi be an option for the Jackets? Quite likely.
The cost to get Johansen would be expensive and likely prohibitive but if he really is on the block as several legitimate sources have suggested (including well informed sources such as Elliot Friedman) then the Rangers must explore the opportunity of adding Johansen. It’s not every day a big, proven 23 year old center is available. It’s not every day there are two teams that can legitimately help each in a trade, the way the Rangers and the Jackets could. Ryan Johansen anyone?