With almost three weeks left until the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, time and opportunity remain for Nashville Predators general manager David Poile to make another move. There's a combination of both supply and demand that might actually bring about one more trade, in fact. On the demand side, one area of speculation is that a veteran "rental" might be needed on defense, if the health of blueliner Francis Bouillon (currently out with a concussion) doesn't improve. On the supply side, OTF reader Will framed things well when he asked the following question over at our Facebook Page (you have joined our Facebook Page, haven't you?):
Another question is where will Svatos, Lombardi, O'Reilly, and Tootoo fit in when they're able to play and will Belak get traded?
It's a good question, because by adding Mike Fisher in exchange for draft picks, the forward ranks could get pretty jammed up once guys return to the lineup, so follow after the jump as we walk through the options...
Typically, the Preds carry a maximum of 14 forwards on the active roster, although they often run with 13 (4 lines of 3 playing, with one a health scratch). Right now, assuming that Matt Halischuk is returned to Milwaukee upon Fisher's arrival, that leaves the current lineup of 12 forwards in place along with Wade Belak as the healthy scratch. For the purposes of this analysis, we'll assume nobody new gets hurt (knock on wood):
|2010 - Wade Belak||15||0||0||0||-1||18||0||0||0||4||0|
As an enforcer who rarely plays, Belak has essentially no trade value. He's a cinch to remain as the healthy scratch/occasional depth forward on the current roster.
|2010 - Marek Svatos||7||1||2||3||2||2||0||0||0||15||6.6|
He had minor knee surgery last month and might start skating again next week. Since he was claimed off waivers when St. Louis tried to bring him back from the KHL, the Predators couldn't just trade him even if they wanted to, they'd have to expose Svatos to waivers instead.
While I can't find the &^*!ing article online, I read something a few days ago which basically said that while negotiating the deal with St. Louis that brought him back from the KHL, Svatos' agent checked with the Predators but David Poile didn't have interest at the time. Once further injuries struck the lineup and the contract with St. Louis was signed, however, Poile put the claim in and grabbed Svatos away from the Blues, because the roster situation at the time demanded action.
The natural corollary, then, is that as healthy bodies return, and especially with Fisher in the fold, Svatos could become superfluous again. But since roster limits go away at the Trade Deadline, as long as the Preds don't run into a pinch over the next 18 days, I'd expect them to keep Svatos in the fold as a backup option if one of the offensive wingers gets dinged up.
|2010 - Matthew Lombardi||2||0||0||0||-1||0||0||0||0||6||0|
The Predators are saying all the right things, but let's face it, the chances of him returning to duty this season are growing increasingly slim just due to the time remaining and the amount of work he'll need to get back in game shape. During yesterday's conference call, however, Poile expressed great confidence that Lombardi would be back for next season, and looked forward to a 1-2-3 combo down the middle of Lombardi, Legwand and Fisher. I have to admit, that's pretty enticing.
For the purposes of the 2011 Trade Deadline, however, I don't see Lombardi's situation changing in time for it to have any influence.
|2010 - Cal O`Reilly||38||6||12||18||4||2||1||0||1||44||13.6|
The hope is that Cal can return from his broken leg sometime in late March, which should allow him to help in the playoffs. While the addition of Fisher might threaten O'Reilly's status as an offensive center on this team, his injury prevents him from being a trade chit at this year's deadline, and you'd have to think the Preds would keep him around as either a 4th-line/PP specialist or healthy scratch if the numbers required it. Remember, David Legwand has experience as a shutdown guy, and Mike Fisher brings credentials as a PK force, so Nick Spaling could be sent back to Milwaukee for the time being to make room. He's still young, and his star is rising with the Preds.
Going forward to next season? I wonder who might prove a candidate for the other factor that Poile trumpeted today, having centers play on the wing. Could O'Reilly develop into a successor to Steve Sullivan as a playmaking winger, or would Mike Fisher's size and strength be of greater use along the boards? The options there are many, and training camp this fall could feature some truly unusual line combinations. Cal will still be a Restricted Free Agent this summer, so the Preds have the inside track to retain his rights this summer.
His timetable for return is completely unknown, of course, and as perhaps the most popular Nashville Predator it's hard to see him being moved upon his return. He brings that physical edge up front which is otherwise lacking, and helps draw the penalties which can tip the special teams balance in Nashville's favor. The question becomes, though, which winger would he knock out of the lineup?
What happens in Nashville as players return
So, in summary, here's the way I see the roster situation developing over the coming weeks. As of today, they have 22 players on the active roster, 14 forwards, 6 defense, and 2 goalies (this includes Fisher), with 23 being the NHL limit, although after the Trade Deadline (February 28), they can keep as many guys as they like on board.
Matt Halischuk is likely the first guy to be sent back to Milwaukee, as Mike Fisher comes on board. This allows Nick Spaling to go back on a line with Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson in a pure checking role. From there, things are stable until other guys start returning, at 21 active players on the roster, with a maximum of two more spots open until the Trade Deadline on February 28.
If they got into a short-term pinch (let's say Svatos, Bouillon, and Tootoo were all cleared to play soon), Spaling could be sent to Milwaukee without having to go through waivers. After the roster limits opened up, they could bring him right back.
But remember our caveat at the start - all this presumes no intervening injuries. Given the way this season has gone so far, dare we hope that such a thing will actually come to pass?
I really don't see any of the players above considered as a trade possibility, and David Poile spoke at great length after the Fisher trade that he really didn't want to part with a player off the roster, hence the 1st-round pick going to Ottawa. Of course, one could wonder whether that stance might change once the injury situation improves.
But when it comes to wingers who might be made available in exchange for a defenseman, the available options in the current lineup are few. Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont have no-trade clauses. Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist are young stars up front who we can't fathom leaving Nashville. Jerred Smithson was just signed to a two-year contract extension and is a Barry Trotz favorite, while Sergei Kostitsyn has proven to be a diamond in the rough.
Joel Ward is headed towards unrestricted free agency, but considering the way he's used to defend top opposing lines, I'd be very, very surprised to see the Preds let him go at this point.
All in all, I just don't see a window display of forwards for sale that you might have on other teams. If defensive help indeed needs to be found, perhaps another draft pick might prove to be the price?