With NHL Trade Deadline 2013 coming up on Wednesday, April 3rd, it's time to consider how the Nashville Predators will approach what can be a turning point for a franchise. First, let's consider the assets which might prove of interest on the trade market . Warning: There is no reason to believe any of these players are actually being considered for trades. This is an entirely theoretical discussion.
Pending Free Agents (UFA)
The most popular form of "rental" player that Stanley Cup contenders pick up at the Trade Deadline are proven veterans who are on the final year of their contract. They bring a relatively certain amount of production, are often highly motivated by the chance for a championship run, and lack any long-term liability in terms of salary cap management. So who might the Predators be able to offer up along these lines?
Scott Hannan has seen his role dwindle over the course of the season with the Preds, playing on the top two pairs during the opening weeks of the season before ice time drifted down to about 15 minutes per game in mid-March. He hasn't played since March 17, so that would hamper his appeal to a contender looking for 3rd pair/PK help on the blueline. Likely Return: Late-round draft pick.
UPDATE: With Hannan now on Injured Reserve, it looks like the Predators won't be able to move him. I'd bet any potential trade partner would want to see him in action first.
Brandon Yip has been a steady presence in the Nashville lineup and embodies the gritty, "hard to play against" style that Barry Trotz espouses. Sure, he doesn't contribute much in the statistical department (conventional or #fancystats), nor does he play a large role on special teams. Likely Return: Late-round draft pick.
Pending Free Agents (RFA)
Players who are eligible for restricted free agency in the summer can represent a bit of a gamble by the acquiring team - depending on their career path they could be headed towards either a major pay raise or an ugly confrontation, such as the one Ryan O`Reilly just went through with Colorado. For a player not on such a trajectory, however, they can be traded much like pending UFA's (recall Nashville's 2010 acquisition of Denis Grebeshkov, who they declined to make a qualifying offer to that summer, allowing him to walk away).
Nick Spaling hasn't developed much of an offensive game but could draw interest as a depth-line forward and penalty killer. Likely Return: Mid- to late-round draft pick.
Patric Hornqvist is Nashville's only consistent, proven goal-scoring winger. If the Preds trade him I may just gouge my eyes out in protest. Likely Return: 2-3 quality prospects & draft picks.
Halischuk is similar in many ways to Yip - a depth player who battles along the wall and plays a minor role on special teams. Likely Return: Late-round draft pick.
On defense, Roman Josi has made himself indispensable, while Jonathon Blum & Victor Bartley aren't likely to carry much value in trade. If the Predators decide to bring in a veteran to bolster the 2nd pair, however, that trade partner might have interest in either Blum or Bartley as depth prospects.
Players Under Contract
Sometimes teams will go ahead and trade guys who have time left on their current contracts, such as when the Preds acquired Mike Fisher ahead of the 2011 Trade Deadline. Sometimes there are teams which want to make a signficant move, and would rather pull the trigger now instead of waiting until the off-season.
Sergei Kostitsyn has had his ups and downs this season, and by now appears to be a pretty well-known commodity: a defensively responsible winger with skill, but a decidedly passive mindset (signed through next season at $3 million). I could see him being the perfect fit as the complementary piece to two offensively-oriented linemates.
Will Craig Smith work out as a Nashville Predator? His speed and shot-creation ability are exciting, but he can't seem to find his way out of his own end of the ice, at least with the puck on his stick. Given that volatility, I doubt a playoff contender would seek him out via trade right now. He's locked up through 2014-2015 at $2 million per season.
I can't imagine the Predators would trade their leading goal scorer, who is signed for the next two seasons at a TOTAL of $1.55 million. I just included him to see if J.R. Lind is paying attention.
Ellis's notoriety as a junior hockey superstar could lead to some teams offering a premium, especially those lacking offensive punch from the right side of their defense. He still has one more year on his entry level contract.
Due to previous trades the Predators are missing their 2nd-round pick this summer (part of the Andrei Kostitsyn deal) as well as their 3rd-round (traded in exchange for the 2012 pick which brought Nashville Brendan Leipsic). They do, however, have a parcel of mid-round picks from other teams:
- Toronto's 4th-rounder, part of the Matt Lombardi trade
- Buffalo's 4th-rounder, part of the Paul Gaustad trade
- Tampa Bay's 3rd-rounder, part of the Anders Lindback trade
- New York Ranger's 5th-rounder, swapped for a 2012 5th-round pick
We've seen Taylor Beck make a strong impression during his first few games with Nashville, and young forwards like Austin Watson and Michael Latta have shown promise as well. On defense, Mattias Ekholm seems to have outstanding NHL potential, but depending on the Dan DeKeyser sweepstakes plays out, he could drop another spot on the depth chart.
Off The Table
Certain players aren't part of the trade mix such as Shea Weber (by rule he can't be traded until 1 year from the date his offer sheet was matched), Martin Erat & David Legwand (no-trade clauses) and Pekka Rinne (guaranteed riots in the streets of Nashville should that occur*). Paul Gaustad has a modified no-trade clause per CapGeek, and along with Colin Wilson, is on Injured Reserve currently.
So put your GM's hat on and consider - how would go to market for this organization?
*just kidding, Peks has a no-trade clause, too.