For almost two months I've been relentless on pitching Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson as a great pick up for the Flyers before the trade deadline.
He's big. He's fast. He's young. And he has enormous upside.
Exactly fifty-five days ago I posted an article titled, Four In A Row, & The Audacity Of An Armchair GM's Decision. Maybe some of you remember reading it. Within this article I suggested five blue liners that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren should take a look at: Kurtis Foster (who since then has been traded to New Jersey), Roman Polak (STL), Dustin Byfuglien (WPG), Ryan Suter (NSH), and Erik Johnson.
My reasoning for trading for Johnson (keep in mind, at the time) was Colorado has one defenseman under 6-foot. Johnson is 6'4", 232 lbs. They are littered with giants on the blue line. Considering that and they ranked 21st in the league in goals-scored per game (2.52 avg), they may have been interested in trading for offense. Today (02-Feb) they rank 24th in the league with goals per game (2.42). So my reasoning still hasn't changed. Instead, it's gotten stronger.
The Avalanche have $14,661,997 in salary space as of right now. Though that is plenty enough cap dollars to re-sign Johnson after this season when his current contract expires, the Avs still have SIXTEEN (11-forwards, 4-defensemen) players on the final year of their contract. That's a ton of re-signing planned ahead for Colorado GM Greg Sherman.
With all this Shea Weber, Luke Schenn, Ryan Suter, Tim Gleason, and Hal Gill talk circulating the Orange rumor-mill, I took it upon myself to keep pushing my dark horse, Erik Johnson. In doing so, I reached out to a writer from the Denver Post named Mike Chambers (@MChambersDP).
Mike's been covering the Colorado Avalanche for the Denver Post ever since the franchise moved from Quebec. From reading his articles, I could tell he is a knowledgeable, passionate hockey fan and I wanted his professional opinion as a journalist on whether making a trade for Johnson would be possible or not.
||Good afternoon, Mr. Chambers –
My name is Michael and I am lead editor and writer for a Philadelphia Flyers blog called The Orange & Black Pack (www.OrangeAndBlackPack.com).
As I’m sure you’re aware, the NHL is getting closer and closer to the trade deadline. Shooting around the rumor-mill are the obvious names like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber from Nashville, Tim Gleason from Carolina and even Hal Gill from Montreal.
Philly’s in need of a defenseman, that much is not a secret. However, about two months ago I wrote an article with possible trades I believed made sense based strictly off of speculation and my own research. One of which happened to be Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche. He’s got size, youth and he’s a physical defensive defenseman.
Seeing as how you’re one of the bigger beat writers for the Avs, I’d love to get your take on the possibility/impossibility of this move.
The reason I see this actually being a possibility is because Johnson’s on the last year of his contract. He’s a big defensive piece to (frankly) any team’s puzzle, so you’d have to be crazy NOT to be interested in Erik. I believe the Flyers may be heading in a direction of rebuilding their blue line with youth. Though Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson seem to do their part as far as rookies go, I don’t consider them the keys we need to take the pressure off of veterans like Kimmo Timonen, and other defensemen such as Meszaros, Carle and Coburn. Which brings me back to Erik Johnson.
I haven’t heard ANYONE talk about Erik Johnson…..literally, no one.
So I was hoping you’d be able to tell me whether you think this trade could happen, and what the potential cost would be to achieve Johnson’s status as a Philadelphia Flyer.
Any feedback is extremely appreciated, and thank you for your time.
||Hello, Mike -
The Avs are carrying eight defensemen, mostly because they don’t want to try to send down Matt Hunwick and risk losing him to the waiver wire, and they love the offensive capabilities of 20-year-old rookie Stefan Elliott.
That said, I do think the Avs might trade one of their core six because they are a lot alike and they don’t want to continue to scratch Elliott (two straight games now). Erik Johnson, Shane O’Brien, Jan Hejda and Ryan O’Byrne are each at least 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, and Kyle Quincey and Ryan Wilson are no toothpicks. I don’t see the Avs trading Wilson (who I think is one of the most underrated players in the league), O’Brien or O’Byrne, and I don’t think Hejda has any value -- big three-year contract at his age (33 or 34) and was a team-worst minus-12 last time I checked.
Thus, yes, I do think EJ or Quincey could get traded. EJ is very inconsistent but still very young, and he’s got all the tools. With patience, he could become the all-star everyone forecasted, so even though he’s no better than average right now, I think he still has a lot of value.
||Thank you, Mike. Couple questions further;
Which of the Flyers players (whom are not tied down by *No-Trade or *No-Movement clauses) and/or future NHL Entry Draft picks could you see Colorado accepting for Erik Johnson?
*Those players with NM/NTC’s mention are:
Chris Pronger – LTIR
We have young guns coming up, but are already NHL’ers. Players like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Matt Read.
Then there’s James van Riemsdyk who’s been rumored to be on the trading block. He’s a power forward with tons of speed, youth, size and grit. #1 or 2 Line forward, definitely.
Would any of these players seal the deal for Erik Johnson?
||Oh, a forward – Avs need a top-six forward.
Wouldn’t that be ironic? Erik Johnson,  No. 1 overall draft pick from Minnesota for Matt Read, undrafted kid from Bemidji State?
I would think JVR or Schenn for EJ would make sense. Don’t know much about Couturier, and Read is too cheap and too good [for the Flyers] to get rid of right now.
The Flyers need to begin rebuilding their blue line. If they acquire Shea Weber or Ryan Suter, fantastic! I'd be the first to celebrate like a '90s Robert Downey Jr.
Maybe not that bad.
Timonen is aging, and Pronger may be headed to the LTIR for the remainder of his NHL career. The point being is our defense needs to enter a sort of restructuring stage, and it starts with size, youth, and true defensive-defense ability. Who knows if the Flyers will re-sign Matt Carle once this season is over? But something must be done to begin filling the Pronger-esque presence that's missing deep in our slot, clearing the front porch.
As Chambers highlighted, Johnson has incredible potential. He already has the physical stature and even though he's "inconsistent" at times, he's more than enough to take that pressure off of defenders like Coburn, Timonen, Meszaros and Carle that could otherwise wear down our blue line before skating into our first post-season series.
Erik Johnson's my dark horse, and I implore our Flyers management to take a legitimate look at obtaining his services prior to the NHL's trade deadline.
I want to personally thank Mike Chambers for taking time away from his day to talk some hockey shop. It was a true pleasure.
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