Entering this season, the Nashville Predators were poised to field a deep and competitive group of centers, but injuries have derailed that plan right from Game 2 on. Matthew Lombardi's concussion was followed by injuries to Marcel Goc and David Legwand, all topped off by Cal O`Reilly's broken leg. What is it they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men?
In the face of adversity, however, the Preds have soldiered forward admirably. Nick Spaling, who began the year in Milwaukee, was called upon when Lombardi first went down and grew into a valuable role as a defensive specialist and penalty killer. Goc is on pace to exceed his career-best 30 point season as he has stepped in to center a scoring line with Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat. Perhaps the most unlikely Predator of all is Chris Mueller, the Milwaukee Admiral who didn't even have an NHL contract until O'Reilly got hurt and the Preds needed him to pivot the 4th line.
That said, this situation has undermined the Nashville attack, leaving the Preds with a 25th-ranked 2.54 goals per game, and the 27th-ranked power play. Several guys here are being asked to play above their genuine level of ability, and if Nashville expects to contend with the best teams in the league in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they need some help.
So what options are available on the trade market? Let's review a few after the jump...
Detroit visits Smashville for the first time this season tomorrow, so save some cash and get yourself some discount Nashville Predators tickets for this, or any other home game.
What The Nashville Predators Would Look For
Basically, the Preds need someone who can bolster the center spot for the duration of this season and the playoffs, but don't really have room for a major commitment beyond that. David Legwand's contract runs through summer 2014, and Lombardi's is through 2013. Colin Wilson is expected to develop into a center spot in the relatively near future, and while O'Reilly's contract is up this summer, he'll still be a restricted free agent and has likely earned himself a job in Nashville for the foreseeable future. Marcel Goc will be unrestricted, but is threatened from below on the depth chart by Spaling.
So what we're looking at here are proven NHL centers who will be unrestricted free agents this summer, on teams that are likely to be sellers. You can click on each player's name below to head over to their SB Nation profile page where you can find their scouting report, recent news, and career stats.
#19 / Center / Buffalo Sabres
May 07, 1981
Contract: $4.5 million, UFA this summer
|2010 - Tim Connolly||35||6||14||20||-12||12||2||0||1||88||6.8|
Why it might happen: Capable of producing at near point-per-game levels, Connelly is a dynamic playmaker with great speed and dazzling puck skills. Could lead a top scoring line.
Why it won't: Is notoriously injury-prone, and hasn't played since January 21st due to a hip injury.
#8 / Center / Calgary Flames
Aug 15, 1975
Contract: $750K, UFA this summer
|2010 - Brendan Morrison||53||9||20||29||6||16||3||1||1||72||12.5|
Why it might happen: Experienced center has an impressive resume of offensive production combined with defensive responsibility. Currently riding a six-game scoring streak, he could make an impact on the power play.
Why it won't: His best days are behind him, and traditionally his production has tailed off during the playoffs. Plus, Calgary's recent play may have them thinking about gearing up for the playoffs, not selling.
#26 / Center / Los Angeles Kings
Mar 11, 1977
Contract: $4 million, UFA this summer
|2010 - Michal Handzus||52||7||13||20||-2||16||2||0||1||57||12.2|
Why it might happen: His size would be a welcome addition, and he combines good defensive play while adding secondary scoring. Very durable, with just one missed game since 2007-8.
Why it won't: The Kings likely won't jettison talent unless things really turn sour over the next few weeks. If they qualify for the playoffs, they have the lineup to do some real damage even as a #8 seed.
#11 / Center / Minnesota Wild
May 04, 1973
Contract: $1 million, UFA this summer
|2010 - John Madden||49||7||8||15||-8||6||1||0||2||66||10.6|
Why it might happen: A defensive specialist, Madden could replace Mueller as the 4th line center and complement an already-strong PK unit. Has a wealth of experience and may be a good fit for a team which usually wins games 2-1 rather than 5-3.
Why it won't: Minnesota is in the thick of the playoff hunt, so they likely won't get rid of Madden unless the wheels fall off.
#25 / Center / New Jersey Devils
Oct 11, 1974
Contract: $4.5 million, UFA this summer
|2010 - Jason Arnott||51||12||10||22||-12||28||2||0||0||127||9.4|
Why it might happen: He can center a top line and score on the power play, filling the two largest holes in the Preds' lineup.
Why it won't: History. Having just been traded by the Preds last summer, would Arnott want to return?
#12 / Center / Ottawa Senators
Jun 05, 1980
Contract: $4 million, $4 million, then $3 million. UFA in 2013.
|2010 - Mike Fisher||52||13||9||22||-15||31||3||0||1||128||10.1|
Why it might happen: He's married to Carrie Underwood, and the Senators are looking to deal.
Why it won't: He's got two more expensive years on his contract, and a commitment here would represent a sea-change for the Preds' roster management. Cal O'Reilly would pretty much be shut out of a major role, and Colin Wilson relegated to a permanent spot on the wing.