Both came to the Minnesota Wild near the trade deadline, acquired for mid-round picks. They were born in Sweden and played in top-six winger roles. Both had signature moments with the Wild and signed two-year deals. But only one remains a member of the Wild.
Nyquist is enjoying his first season with the Nashville Predators. He just came off a 10-game point streak and is on pace to score 63 points. Nyquist had a career-high of 60 points in 2018-19, playing for the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks. Nyquist, 34, should score 20 goals for the fifth time in his career. An offense-starved team like the Wild could use Nyqusit’s production.
In the offseason, Bill Guerin and the Wild front office had to choose whether to retain Johansson or Nyquist due to cap concerns. Johansson was productive on Boldy’s line at the end of the season, with 18 points in 20 games. Nyquist arrived injured, but he had 10 points in nine games during the regular season and playoffs.
Despite Nyquist’s superior playoff production, Guerin re-signed Johansson to a two-year, $4 million deal. Nyquist hit the open market and signed a two-year deal with the Predators with an AAV of $3,185,000 million.
Nyquist has played over 377 minutes on Nashville’s de facto top line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan O'Reilly. Perhaps Nyquist is only productive because he’s skating with Forsberg and O'Reilly, but that’s not entirely true. Dean Evason strapped Nyquist to players like Sam Steel and Marcus Foligno. That’s not exactly at the same tier of players that Forsberg and O’Reilly are, but Nyquist still produced like a madman with 11 points in 10 games coming off of injury, even for his short stint in a Wild sweater.
Nyquist has been a better player than Johansson throughout his career. He has scored more goals in fewer games and has a .62% point-per-game rate, which is better than Johansson’s .54%. Nyquist has a more lethal skill set than Johansson, and the Wild have playmakers who would complement a goal-scorer. Nyquist is a combination of playmaker and sniper who can build chemistry with anyone on the roster. Meanwhile, JoJo is primarily a passer at this point in his career.
The Wild may be unable to afford what Nashville paid Nyquist, but the front office essentially chose Johansson over Nyquist. Guerin may have been willing to offer Nyquist a no-move clause to lower his AAV and fit him under Minnesota’s tight cap. I’d take one less Jake Lucchini if the Wild could pay Nyquist $2.75 million.
The difference between Nyquist and Johansson would not have turned the Wild’s season around. This hypothetical is easier to highlight now because of how Nyquist has flourished in Nashville while Johansson has declined. But the signs for resigning Nyqusit were there, and the Wild chose to go in another direction.
Minnesota couldn’t ignore Johansson and Boldy’s chemistry, but they didn’t produce in the playoffs. Boldy was stepping up in Kaprizov’s absence rather than playing well because of Johansson’s arrival on his line.
Last year, I applauded Guerin for his low-risk, high-reward move in acquiring Nyquist for only a fifth-round pick at the trade deadline. But the subsequent Johansson deal was a low-risk, low-reward move that has backfired on the Wild.
All stats and data via HockeyDB, CapFriendly, Evolving Hockey, and Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted.
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