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  • The Wild Should Explore A Kent Johnson Trade

    Image courtesy of © Jason Mowry - USA TODAY Sports
    Luke Sims

    The Minnesota Wild are scoring just barely over three goals a game (3.03) and 19th in the NHL in goals per 60 minutes. Despite needing points and wins, they have gotten mundane performances from their offensive stalwarts. Minnesota’s defense isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, but the Wild could still use more offensive production. 

    Fortunately for the Wild, the AHL's leader in points per game could be on the trade block. 

    There’s a storm brewing in central Ohio right now. The Columbus Blue Jackets' 5th overall pick in the 2021 draft is playing on their AHL squad in Cleveland. Kent Johnson has three points in eight NHL games this year but has spent much of his time in the AHL. The Jackets made Johnson a healthy scratch for two before sending him down. 

    The former Michigan star is not a fringe player. The 21-year-old undoubtedly has the skills to stick in the NHL, and it’s unclear why Columbus is keeping him in the AHL. Johnson recently changed his representation due to the situation. The youngster signed with Pat Brisson, the agent who represented other former Columbus stars like Seth Jones and Piere Luc-Dubois. 

    I’d imagine Johnson feels disrespected by the demotion. Johnson put up 40 points in 79 games as a 20-year-old rookie last year. That included 16 goals on a putrid Blue Jackets team (59 points, second least in the NHL). The Canadian was fifth on the team in points, fourth in GF%, and fifth in shots. He did all of this as a rookie while only playing 14 minutes a night. The former top pick probably expected to play a significant role on the Jackets this season, but that hasn’t been the case. 

    It’s not all the center's fault. The Columbus organization is in a bit of a tumultuous state. They had to fire head coach Mike Babcock before he coached in a game and rushed to hire a replacement before the season started. Coaching changes can be difficult for young players. Perhaps the new coach, Pascal Vincent, does not see Johnson in the same way that his past coaches did. 

    Regardless of why the 6’1” center is in the AHL, Johnson is proving he should be on NHL ice. He’s on pace for 114 points in the AHL, with four goals and ten assists in eight games.


    Johnson has been an offensive force ever since Columbus drafted him. He was over a point-per-game player in his two seasons at Michigan. Johnson’s creativity and skills translated to the NHL in his first year. His stick handling and skating are his two signature strengths. 


    Johnson pulled off this highly skilled move in a shootout last year:



    The center also pulled off one of the signature goals of the NHL season when he did ‘The Michigan’ against the New York Islanders:



    Johnson’s size, speed, and skill would greatly boost the Wild offense. 

    Kirby Dach was the most recent former top-five pick to be moved before he finished his rookie contract. During his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, Dach faced injuries, but the big center put up decent numbers. It's not quite what you would hope from a third-overall pick. However, it was enough for the Montreal Canadians to send a mid-first and mid-second-round pick to Chicago for his services. 

    Dach’s value was a bit higher than Johnson’s at the time of the trade. The Blackhawks traded Dach to shake up the roster and give him a change of scenery. Columbus probably would have the same intent in a Johnson trade.

    The Blue Jackets will probably have a reasonable asking price for Johnson. The Wild could craft something up of even value that’s not just picks, but they would need to send a player back to Columbus off the NHL roster to make it work. Johnson makes $950,000 on his NHL contract, and the Wild can only fit $806,000. Therefore, a player would have to go back to the Blue Jackets to make the cap work. 

    A potential trade package may look like: 

    To MIN: Kent Johnson

    To CBJ: Connor Dewar, Vladislav Firstov, 1st or 2nd round pick 

    Dewar is there for the roster spot and Firstov is a good prospect who may be more inclined to play for a team that has room for him in Columbus. The Wild would have to include the pick to make the trade even. I’d assume Columbus would want a chance to make up for their selection of Johnson. 

    The Wild would have to give Johnson a chance to succeed. If the Wild treated Johnson like they handled Marco Rossi, they’d end up right back where Columbus was with Johnson. 

    Losing Dewar would hurt. But Freddy Gaudreau could take that spot on the fourth line while Johnson slots into the 2C role with Boldy and Marcus Johansson. If Johnson can put up 40 points as a rookie on Columbus, I can’t imagine what kind of damage he’d do with Boldy on his wing.

    If the price to acquire the young center is not too great, the Wild should swing a deal to acquire Johnson’s services. Johnson could be a star player who could help turn Minnesota’s season around.

    All stats and data via Evolving Hockey, HockeyDb, CapFriendly, and Elite Prospects unless otherwise noted. 

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    It’s fun to dream about this but I don’t think there’s a snowballs chance in ell.
    especially not for that offer.



    With the rise of Greig for Ottawa, I would imagine Pinto would be a much more likely candidate for us to acquire.

    6’3 Center who scored 20 goals his rookie year.



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    Kent Johnson would offer size? 


    Johnson’s size, speed, and skill would greatly boost the Wild offense. 

    Look at his card, he's listed at 165 lbs. That's less than Spurgeon's weight. Unless you can tell me that Johnson has somehow added 30 lbs., I would suggest that the reason he was sent down was he's too light to play the type of game that Vincent wants. And we play a similar type of style.

    His speed and skill would be useful to pair with Boldy, but to list his size is pretty off. Last season Johnson scored 40 pts., but was a -19. I didn't have time to look up how that compared with the rest of the team, but to put that into perspective, that is Addison territory and just like I've pounded Addison on his lack of size, I would be doing the same, likely, with Johnson. 

    Think about this for a minute, on NHL.com, Johnson is listed as 178. He's weighing less than Rossi right now. We saw how bad Rossi was last season until he gained the strength and weight this past offseason. I think we'd set ourselves up for similar frustration.

    Now, is Johnson willing to put the time and effort into the weight room? I would want to know that before pulling the trigger on a trade. But, I did like the compensation with the 2nd round pick. This assumes that Firstov is willing to come back to the NHL.

    Edited by mnfaninnc
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    As I watch the Detroit game, David Perron scored 2 very nice PP goals. Why don't the Wild get goals like that??? That's a great question, and one that needs to be explored.

    This falls straight on the desk of GMBG. He is not a great believer in handedness. Our forwards are way over balanced towards left handed shots. So, to answer the question above, the reason we don't have goals like that is because we don't have a forward who can legitimately play in Ovechkin's office. Even with Ek, the pass pretty much needs to come from the right side of the rink for him to get the best tip/rebound opportunity. It is fairly easy for a PK to defend a left handed shot heavy PP. 

    Now, based upon this article, Kent Johnson is another left handed forward, and a very light one at that. I'd suggest that if we make some additions to the forward group, they need to be right handed shots with a very good shot, especially one-timer. Johnson does not meet that criteria. 

    Currently, the best chance we have at this is Spurgeon, a defender who has shown in the past he can sneak down to that area. However, how many times have we seen him do this this year? 0! He rarely crosses over to the left side of the rink. He's also playing back to insure there is some defense.

    Hartman is our right handed guy. His shot is really below average as he needs to be within 10' to have a decent chance and 1/2 the time he'll flub the puck. You know who would be nice there? Patrick Laine. Yet, we couldn't afford that contract. Laine was also bench recently. 

    Now, had GMBG waited and not extended Zuccarello, Foligno and Hartman, they could have been part of the deal and we could have afforded him with retained cap. Of course, they would likely have been part of the deal.

    This is a very small detail in the game, but one that I have pointed out for several seasons now. This is what you get when you don't balance things out. And at this level, being able to cheat a small way to the right side of the rink cuts down a lot of angles. I would suggest that 2 right handed heavy shot players are needed on this roster. 

    We don't really have those guys in the system either as we haven't paid attention in drafting to getting those righties either. This flaw falls directly on GMBG. He needs to fix it.

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    On 11/25/2023 at 9:30 AM, mnfaninnc said:

    Look at his card, he's listed at 165 lbs.

    At his card? Are we talking about his rookie card or draft card?

    He's listed at 175 pounds in the 3 places I looked, including NHL.com.

    Not suggesting he's big, but 10 pounds added over the last couple of years could make a difference. Likely he'll be at 180+ in the near future.

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    3 hours ago, Imyourhuckleberry said:

    Not suggesting he's big, but 10 pounds added over the last couple of years could make a difference. Likely he'll be at 180+ in the near future.

    This is precisely my point, that's not size by any stretch of the imagination. I was referring to the card in the article and later corrected with his NHL listed weight at 178. At 6'1", to be considered having size, he'll need to be somewhere in the 200-205 range.

    At 180, we're looking at another Addison story.

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