NASHVILLE — General manager David Poile hopes he finally has gotten Nashville the No. 1 center he's been trying to land for 18 years. All it took was one of his best young defensemen in a rare blockbuster NHL trade.
The Predators traded defenseman Seth Jones, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, to the Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, on Wednesday in a move Poile hopes boosts Nashville's offense and position in the Central Division standings.
"A lot of good players come through here, and we've had some good centers, but I think we have a chance here to have truly a No. 1 center, something that we've been coveting for a long time," Poile said Wednesday.
Poile called it a steep price to pay. But Nashville entered the day ranked 13th in goals against and 17th in goals scored. Poile said this season has been a struggle with the Predators inconsistent on offense. Nashville was in the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 45 points, four ahead of Colorado.
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen pulled the trigger, he said, because he has had a strong desire — for two years now — to transform the Blue Jackets' blue line, the franchise's historical weakness.
"It's so hard to trade players you know are going to be really good players in the league for a long time," Kekalainen said. "But if you want something good, you have to give up something good."
Johansen, 23, played in every game for Columbus the past two seasons. He had six goals and 20 assists in 38 games this season after scoring 26 goals and 45 assists last season.
Jones, 21, is 6 feet 3, 208 pounds, and a fluid skater. He projects as a 30-minute-per-game player in the near future.
Around the league: The Capitals signed former All-Star Mike Richards bolstering the team's depth at center and adding a two-time Stanley Cup winner to a roster that leads the NHL in points. Richards, 30, has been out of the league since the Kings terminated his contract following his arrest on drug charges at the Canadian-U.S. border in June. He was cleared by the NHL on Wednesday to resume his NHL career, and the Capitals signed him to a one-year, prorated $1 million deal.
Game highlights: Torrey Mitchell scored a shorthanded goal in the second period to lift the host Canadiens to a 2-1 victory over the Devils.
First Period—1, Montreal, Pacioretty 17 (Plekanec, Subban), 19:00 (pp). Penalties—Emelin, Mon (interference), 14:46; New Jersey bench, served by Matteau (too many men), 17:57; Farnham, NJ (interference), 19:44.
Second Period—2, Montreal, Mitchell 6 (Byron), 18:27 (sh). Penalties—Ruutu, NJ (tripping), 5:45; Subban, Mon (hooking), 6:45; Smith-Pelly, Mon (interference), 17:35.
Third Period—3, New Jersey, Henrique 14 (Greene, Stempniak), :50. Penalties—None. Missed Penalty Shot—Desharnais, Mon, 16:31 second. Shots on Goal—New Jersey 9-6-5—20. Montreal 8-10-7—25. Power-play opportunities—New Jersey 0 of 3; Montreal 1 of 3. Goalies—New Jersey, Schneider 17-12-5 (25 shots-23 saves). Montreal, Condon 12-9-3 (20-19).