Fan favorite requests a trade
So many potential angles we could take with Straight Jackets this go-round.
The offense was struggling mightily as the team headed into the bye week. Is the team shooting enough? Is it not getting the right shots? Is it passing too much? Why are the veteran players so crappy?
Or, on the brighter side, Seth Jones, one of three candidates for team-MVP-thus-far-even-though-that's-not-a-real-award, was selected to represent the team at the All-Star Game for the second time in his career.
But then, Jack Johnson goes and requests a trade. That's your guy Jack Johnson, a bit of a meathead, maybe, but a super great guy and beloved among long-suffering Jackets fans because he was acquired in the 2012 mid-season trade for that no-good Jeff Carter, who pouted his way out of town after then-General Manager Scott Howson acquired him in a big offseason trade to get a center to play with Rick Nash. Not only was Johnson not Carter, he was the anti-Carter, proud and excited to be in Columbus (genuinely, too!) and part of a group of players who helped change the culture of this moribund franchise. That Jack Johnson is requesting a trade.
For that reason alone, this news, reported by The Athletic's Aaron Portzline, is sad news. From the player's perspective though, it makes some sense. Johnson's financial woes are well-documented. In 2014, it came to light that his parents, to whom he had signed over responsibility to manage his financial affairs, had squandered literally all of Johnson's earnings. Johnson was more than $10 million in debt and was forced to declare bankruptcy. He's been turning over most of his $5 million annual salary as part of the resolution agreement. (Far be it from me to feel bad for multimillion-dollar athletes, but, man.)
This is the final year of Johnson's current contract. It's unclear if he and the team have been actively working on a new deal, but regardless if negotiations are taking place, Johnson's ice time is dropping. And it's dropping because he's not playing that well. (Remember what I said above about struggling vets?) So if Johnson, currently 31, is looking to score one last big (or at least decent) NHL contract, maybe he's starting to figure it won't be with Columbus?
The team could probably trade him and not take a significant hit, with Ryan Murray poised to return from injury soon and young Gabriel Carlsson waiting in the wings. But Johnson has become a solid contributor over his CBJ career, bucking all-or-nothing-and-too-often-nothing trends from early in his career. He's a gifted athlete and conditioned, while still the oldest player on the team's blueline (and the wearer of an assistant captain's ‘A' on his sweater, fallout from some early season drama in which Head Coach John Tortorella stripped the designation from Brandon Dubinsky).
And Johnson has traditionally elevated his game in the playoffs. A young team that might find itself backing into a playoff spot come spring might need all the help it can get in trying to win the franchise's first playoff series.
Prediction? Johnson is traded for a similar veteran forward on an expiring contract. Sooner than later.