The Nashville Predators, fighting for a playoff spot in the ultra competitive Western Conference, could be one lineup piece short of a potential postseason run. Usually considered to be set on the top line and on David Legwand's highly effective shutdown line, the Predators could be in the market for a secondary scoring center to boost depth and the power play, as Dirk elaborated on in his great piece on Marcel Goc.
After the jump, we'll speculate on some guys who fit this bill and have at different times this year been touted as potentially available. For the purposes of this exercise (and thats all it is) we'll stay in either in the Eastern Conference or with teams that are out of the running, as its unlikely, with the West as tight as it is, that a team close to the Preds in the standings would help them out at this point of the season...
Who Goes Out?
In order to make a trade, you need something valuable to send your partner in return. For the Predators, the main bargaining chip that they would be willing to use is most likely unrestricted free agent Dan Hamhuis, a young, talented blueliner who may be a product of an overstocked defense corps that includes budding superstars Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
#2 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators
Dec 13, 1982
Cap hit: $2,000,000
|2009 - Dan Hamhuis||39||4||8||12||5||28||0||0||0||0||58||6.9|
Of course, potential deals would likely include other pieces besides Hamhuis, such as prospects and picks, but for the sake of argument, we'll use him as the main piece.
Who Comes In?
The criteria used to determine possible acquisitions for this exercise are mainly this: a playmaking center who does more than score, defensively sound (as any good Predator will be), and someone who will potentially boost our currently woeful special teams. That said, these options are listed in no particular order, starting with a young pivot from Washington.
#14 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
May 16, 1984
Cap hit: $725,000
|2009 - Tomas Fleischmann||31||15||12||27||3||6||5||0||2||0||62||24.2|
While Fleischmann's player card does say right wing, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau recently moved him to center and he responded with a multi-point performance. I had a word with David Getz of SB Nation's Washington Capitals affiliate Japers' Rink, and here's what he had to say:
In a nutshell, Fleischmann's a guy with good speed and offensive instincts, who's had some success at the NHL level. He's been a winger to this point in his career, although the Caps are now giving him a shot at center in an effort to generate offense across three lines. To this point the knocks on Fleischmann had been his lack of strength and the associated unwillingness or inability to play in the corners and in front of the net, his inconsistency, and his questionable defense. He's still not a very good defensive player, but he has been bigger, stronger, and more consistent this season.
Capitals fans are enamored with Hamhuis, and the team needs a player like him. Here's what David said about Dan:
I think the Capitals would love Hamhuis. He's exactly the kind of the player they need. I can't say whether or not Caps brass would be willing to part with Fleischmann for Hamhuis, but I'd certainly consider it if I were in their shoes.
The major downside to Fleischmann is, as David says, he's not very good defensively which will not suit you well on a Barry Trotz coached team. An interesting option, but maybe not the best fit because of his newness at center and defensive zone problems.
#20 / LW/Center / New York Rangers
Feb 17, 1975
Cap hit: 1,150,000
|2009 - Vinny Prospal||38||8||24||32||2||22||3||1||2||0||89||9.0|
A second option is a player who is more of a hybrid guy, capable of lining up at center or wing. He's had a pretty good year thus far, despite being injured, and the Rangers may be sellers at the deadline if their offense continues to be one-faceted. An above average passer, Prospal may be the setup man the Predators second power play unit needs. With Hornqvist, Arnott, and Dumont on the first one a second unit of Erat, Prospal, and Sullivan (or any variation thereof) looks equally intimidating. Prospal would likely be more of a rental than Fleischmann, and at 35 his price may not be as high as his, either. The knock on Prospal seems to be his skating ability, but that is something that can be overcome. Jim Schmiedeberg of SB Nation's Rangers affiliate Blueshirt Banter was kind enough to tell me a bit about his availability:
It's hard for me to say at this point on Prospal. If the Rangers are looking to make trades, I would have to think he is near the top of the list of moveable players, based on his rock bottom salary and production, which has been decent. But the Rangers are middle of the pack right now, and I think it will be the end of January before they decide if they are sellers. Either way, with his contract and experience, he is probably at the top of the list of players most likely to be traded before the deadline.
I can tell you this: If they are looking to move players, they are going to be looking for youth, grit, and speed in return. Players that fit into the Tortorella system, whatever that is.
The NY Post's Larry Brooks says the Rangers should sell, and Vinny Prospal is mentioned as a guy who could go:
...it is imperative for Sather to cast his fishing line into the waters immediately while using pending unrestricted free agents Vinny Prospal and Christopher Higgins, and perhaps pending restricted free agent Dan Girardi, as bait.
Prospal, who may be able to return this week from the knee injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 26, is an important part of this season's club, even while the Blueshirts have gone 4-1-2 in his absence. He might be an important part of next season's club, as well.
But if a championship contender is willing to surrender a first- or second-round pick for the veteran who will turn 35 next month, Sather is obligated to reel in the deal, even if it dilutes the 2009-10 Rangers' talent base and makes a playoff berth more problematic.
#13 / Center / Edmonton Oilers
Jun 14, 1987
Cap hit: $1,133,333
|2009 - Andrew Cogliano||44||4||6||10||0||11||0||0||0||0||66||6.1|
Cogliano has some guys breathing down his neck at wing right now: Eberle, Omark, Paajarvi, not to mention the college centers; he's going to have to do something significant to separate himself in the next three months. If not, the Oilers should be looking to move him if they can get a win in a trade. He's still on his first contract and shouldn't see an enormous raise, so he could be very attractive to a number of teams, especially teams in the Eastern conference.
Cogliano doesn't have quite the statistics of Brule, but he may be a better fit and more affordable for the Predators. As we saw last night, Cogliano is insanely fast and not afraid to deliver a hit.
None of these guys are true game-breakers, but David Poile is not likely to give up future assets for a guy that takes up a lot of cap and may or may not resign.
Its my feeling that the Predators need to acquire a player like this in order to get past the first round, and these guys, in my opinion, are the best suited players for the job at this point in the season. The purpose of this is to initiate discussion on what it would take to get Nashville over the threshold and into uncharted waters, also known as the conference semi-finals. Its likely that I'll put up another set of guys that fit the need from the West closer to the deadline when teams know better where they stand in playoff positioning.
Can you think of somebody better or cheaper? See an error? Disagree? Leave it in the comments!