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NHL Future In Doubt For Former Avalanche Center

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Avalanche Ryan Johansen

The marriage between the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Johansen didn’t last very long. After a solid start in terms of point production, most of which came on the powerplay, everything fell apart really quickly for the veteran center. He couldn’t keep up, he couldn’t generate offense, and he wasn’t providing any value for the Avalanche.

I wrote in February that the experiment had failed, and Chris MacFarland needed to do something about it. He didn’t need me or anyone else to tell him that, I guess.

Less than a month later, Johansen, along with Colorado’s 2025 first, was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for Sean Walker. A steep price to pay to get rid of that contract, but a wise one. Could you imagine how much more difficult this summer would be if Johansen was still on the books?

“It wasn’t working, and we had to fix it,” MacFarland said after the trade.

Fix it they did. With Johansen no longer in the picture, the Avalanche acquired Casey Mittelstadt soon after, upgrading at the center position in a big way. The 31 year old center was now Philadelphia’s problem…and still is today.

Philadelphia really had no plans to use Johansen, as they immediately waived him and sent him to the AHL. Their hope was to move him to another team before the NHL Trade Deadline, but those hopes were dashed pretty quickly.

Johansen told the Flyers that he was battling something and couldn’t play. Not exactly what they wanted to hear.

“He claimed to be injured when we traded for him, so we had him see the doctors,” Danny Briere told Philly Hockey Now back in March. “They found an injury, so now he’s going to be rehabbing. You can’t send down a player who’s injured, so he’s going to be doing rehab until… we don’t know when.”

That rehab is still continuing. The other day, Briere gave an update on Johansen to the media.

“As far as I know, he’s doing stuff that isn’t too invasive to see if it can rectify his issues,” Briere said. “I think he’s coming in here next week to meet with our doctors and trainers, so we’re hoping to get a little more clarification on the rest of the summer and leading into camp and the season next year.”

It sure seems like the Avalanche were wise to get out of that contract. Johansen was a nice guy, but it just wasn’t working out on the ice. Now the Flyers are kind of stuck with him. Yeah, he’s rehabbing and all, but they probably want to get out of that contract as quickly as possible. If he’s injured, a buyout can’t happen.

It is kind of strange that this injury popped up out of nowhere. Johansen could have been battling something in Colorado, but he didn’t miss a single game. That’s probably why the Avalanche didn’t get in any trouble (as far as I know) for trading someone who was apparently injured – they just didn’t know.

Acquiring Johansen cost the Avalanche nothing in terms of assets, but they did have to fork over a first round pick just to get rid of him. Not the best asset management overall, but it was the right move. Now it seems like there’s a chance Johansen’s last NHL game could have come in a Colorado uniform.

That’s how quickly things can change in the NHL.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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