As the Nashville Predators begin to look to the stretch drive, its becoming more evident that scoring help is a necessity if the team wants to compete past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The center position is quite clogged up at the moment, with Jason Arnott, David Legwand, Marcel Goc, and Cal O'Reilly all performing relatively adequately and all (except maybe O'Reilly) likely untradeable. Its because of this that we now look to the winger position. Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat, J.P. Dumont, and Patric Hornqvist have all contributed well at times, but rare are the games when they all play well. The general feeling is that an offensively consistent guy to play with O'Reilly or Goc would go a long way towards the Predators' chase for postseason success.
Follow after the jump where we take a look at a few available options and bloggers from around SBN pitch in to help out...
Because I can, I'm going to list these options in order of personal preference. The guy that I'd like to see on the team the most comes first.
#24 / Left Wing / Los Angeles Kings
Jun 19, 1982
Cap hit: 2,900,000
|2009 - Alexander Frolov||54||12||20||32||-8||22||2||0||0||0||123||9.|
Here's a player that has been through the ups and downs as a Los Angeles King. Very talented, Frolov would likely remind Predator fans of Martin Erat. Frustratingly inconsistent but occasionally brilliant, Frolov has the capability to change games in an instant. He's responsible in his own end, but equally capable of potting the goals. He's scored 35 goals in a season before, and at only 27, one would think that under the right conditions he could flourish again. I'd guess that it wouldn't be unfeasible for Poile to get him resigned, either, under the right conditions.
Connie Kim of SBN's new Kings blog Jewels from the Crown confirmed that he certainly was available, and gave me a quick scouting report:
I could confirm that Frolov is available to you and any team willing to work with Dean Lombardi on the particulars. He is definitely not on the un-touchables list and is a UFA at the end of this season. If you were thinking about what you might have to give up for him, I can confidently say that you'd get more value out of Frolov if he is moved as part of a package as opposed to being a one-for-one deal.
In terms of Frolov the player, he is a puck-possession type of player although the past few seasons have seen his role change according to team needs. Interestingly enough, when he puts up points, he's always listed in the secondary scoring group of players even if he's leading the team in one category or another. You'll hear the term "enigma" being associated with Frolov more often than not; he always seems like he's on the cusp of being a solid player but never quite makes it there.
So what do you think? Should Nashville jump on the chance to acquire another talented, but enigmatic Russian winger? Certainly, the comparisons to a certain #47 are there, but Frolov seems to be more grounded and defensive-minded. If he could develop a rapport with teammates and Coach Trotz, Frolov could once again take flight in Nashville.
#23 / Left Wing / Toronto Maple Leafs
Apr 09, 1980
Cap hit: 2,105,000
Contract status: UFA
|2009 - Alexei Ponikarovsky||56||19||20||39||3||40||4||0||1||0||141||13.5|
This option may be the most realistic for Predator fans to consider. Ponikarovsky is the most solid two-way player on this list, and in many ways has the skillset to be a perfect Pred. He would slide easily onto a shutdown line with David Legwand, and allow Jerred Smithson to return to a bottom level checking line that fits him better. There were reports last year that Poni to Nashville was all but done, so along with possibly being the best fit for the system, it seems as though he's the most likely, too.
Here's PPP from Pension Plan Puppets for your Alex Ponikarovsky report:
Well, I've read a few of the major players in Canadian media suggest that Burke wants to try to turn him into a first rounder in this draft. However, he himself has said that based on what he's heard that's going to be next to impossible and I agree. Last year the only first rounder that moved came in the Jokinen trade and since then it's been proven that Darryl Sutter is insane.What will it likely take? At a minimum a 2nd round pick. Last year Antro and Dominic Moore garnered at least that and Poni is a better player than both. Antro also snagged a conditional fourth which sadly hinged on the Rangers not sucking so we never saw that pick. So I'll say a 2nd and a 4th or a prospect.As for what he brings to the table: he's a big boy (insert stats here) with a great wrist shot. He's a strong skater and when he decides he's going to the net he can't be stopped. He's a minimum 20 goal scorer but I think he'll likely hit 30 for the next couple of seasons. He's great in a cycling game because of his time with Antropov and Sundin but his skating means he can also play with lines on the rush. Without fail, whoever has played with him on the Leafs has played well.
#13 / Left Wing / Carolina Hurricanes
May 08, 1972
|2009 - Ray Whitney||53||16||25||41||-3||20||3||0||3||0||107||15.0|
Cory Lavalette of Canes Country and From the Rink gave me some scoop on The Wizard:
The benefits of having a guy like Ray Whitney is he can seemingly mesh with anyone. I can't see a scenario where he would go to a new team and struggle to adapt. He's creative in the offensive zone — particularly as a passer on the power play — and still has some moves despite being 37. As for compensation, I think GM Jim Rutherford would expect at least a first-round pick and perhaps a touch more. The defensive depth in the system is a little thin, so I think a good, young blueliner could persuade him as well. But Whitney holds some of the cards to because he has a no-trade clause — he may want a multi-year extension if he goes to a borderline Cup contender vs. a favorite.
A possible deal-breaker here sounds like it would be Whitney's no trade clause. Its unlikely, at age 37, that Nashville would be willing to sign any extension. The possibilities, though, of adding him to the putrid Nashville power play are enticing and it would provide Barry Trotz another option in the shootout. So while the benefits would be pretty significant, the contract situation and the price of a first round pick likely put this winger out of reach.
#13 / Left Wing / Tampa Bay Lightning
Nov 21, 1979
|2009 - Alex Tanguay||53||8||20||28||3||26||3||0||2||0||58||13.8|
Coming across my Twitter feed yesterday was the news that David Poile was talking to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I found this interesting, and upon searching Tampa's roster found that Alex Tanguay fits the description here. He's a UFA, and isn't overpaid.
Raw Charge answered my request for a report on Tanguay this year. Here's John Fontana:
Because of Alex's lack-of-production with Tampa, I think it's no secret he will be available (or is available). On a personal level, I don't want to see him go... on a professional level, it's hard to doubt that he is being shopped.
Before I give anything else, let me just say that you (Preds fans)would supposedly be in competition with the Flames over Tanguay. For a few weeks now there have been Flames fans calling for Alex to be brought back. Of course, fan-say does not mean that it's a management interest or not, but the point is that other teams do have interest in him.
He still has his skills that are renown to the league, but under coaching's plans in Tampa - he has not excelled. Acquiring him and the costs of that are dependent on what happens with team ownership and upper-management. It clouds the picture of what is in store for this team in general... Let alone Tanguay.
Alex Tanguay has put up some gaudy numbers in his career, and at one time was a premier offensive player. He's tailed off since, but remains a threat offensively, especially on the man advantage. A UFA with a relatively low cap hit, the asking price isn't likely to be high.
John's description of Tanguay reminds me a little of J.P. Dumont. All the skills, yet underachievement still happens. Alex has lost some of his wheels lately, and if he struggles on a team with Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier, I'm not sure how well he'd do here.
#29 / Left Wing / San Jose Sharks
Sep 30, 1982
|2009 - Ryane Clowe||55||13||24||37||3||77||2||0||1||0||118||11.0|
We have here a power forward, who looks to be a key chip for Sharks GM Doug Wilson this trading season. Clowe puts up some good numbers in San Jose, and would immediately become Nashville's biggest forward threat on the power play.
Mr. Plank, managing editor of SBN's Fear the Fin (yet another great blog) had this to say on Clowe, his productivity, and availability:
Ryane Clowe signed a four year $3.65 M per year contract this past offseason, and with the salary cap constraints the Sharks are dealing with currently, he's the most likely trade target if Doug Wilson is looking to make a big splash before the trade deadline. The rest of the potentials assets in San Jose make too little under the cap (Setoguchi, Pavelski) to expect much of a return in a one-for-one deal.
Clowe's skillset is across the board-- last season he was a power play specialist, notching half his goals with the man advantage, while this season he has improved his even strength numbers greatly. He's been criticized for not using his big body to park himself in front of the net enough, and while that is still an issue, he is an asset on the low cycle when he protects the puck, possesses a fair amount of vision, and has an above average set of hands in the passing game. Skating ability is decidedly below average, and it is frustrating when he carries the puck on the rush-- after entering the zone, he'll pull up above the circles and wait to hit a trailer driving to the net across the zone. More often than not it will result in a turnover or a broken play.
Clowe isn't perfect, but on a team like Nashville, he would see top-six minutes and a healthy amount of power play time. Will not kill penalties, and unlike former-Shark Milan Michalek, there will never be potential for him to begin to. I wouldn't call him porous defensively, but there is little to no upside to making a move for him if you are expecting a player who is able to play a strong two-way game. I'm not accusing him of floating or ignoring his defensive responsibilities, but I am saying that he will never be able to make a significant difference defensively.
Manny Malhotra has currently replaced him on the second line, bumping Clowe down to third line minutes with Jed Ortmeyer and Scott Nichol on the Sharks checking line. On a side note, I hate saying a word ("line" in this instance) three times in one sentence. It bugs me to no end.
The Sharks are looking for a solid defensive defenseman as they head into the stretch run, and by giving up on Clowe they would be acknowledging that they have the confidence in Manny Malhotra to play top-six minutes, as well as having the confidence in Jamie McGinn to fill his spot on the third line. It deprives the Sharks of a big body in their lineup, but since Clowe has failed to consistently provide the team with an effective presence in front of the opposing goaltender, it may not end up hurting them all too much in the long run. Regardless, it is a point that is worth making.
While Clowe's stats look good and his power play contributions would help Nashville immensely, its pretty unfeasible that the Predators would make a move for a guy that "will never be able to make a significant difference defensively." Like Alexander Radulov before him, he'd likely spend a good chunk of time in Trotzy's doghouse for not playing a solid two-way game.
#40 / Right Wing / Colorado Avalanche
Jun 17, 1982
Cap hit: 2,105,000
Contract status: UFA
|2009 - Marek Svatos||36||6||3||9||-9||33||3||0||1||0||56||10.7|
Next up is another player who has all the tools but for one reason or another has failed to make it work in his current situation.
Svatos has been hit by a slew of injuries, and hasn't been able to find a productive lineup spot in the new Avalanche regime. He's a good puck handler, and given the right linemates could again be a useful player. I would hesitate at the chance of acquiring him if only because of his health issues.
I had a conversation about him over at SBN's Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey, and here's what reputable commenter "thedoctor" (recommended by the always interesting Jibblescribbits and a MHH admin) had to say on Svatos:
He’s definitely available.
Svatos is a smallish player, but tries to play like a much larger player, which in turn has led to many injuries. His best assets are his hustle and quick hands around the net. He’s particularly good at finding rebounds in traffic. On the flip side, despite his effort he’s a bit of a defensive liability, taking many bad penalties and losing battles along the boards in both zones. He’s a poor passer and not really a traditional sniper, more of a small rebound cleaner.
The key for Svatos is to find a playmaking winger that he has chemistry with. Forsberg, Turgeon, and strangely Arnason were all guys he found chemistry with, but Sakic, Stastny, Duchene, and O’Reilly have all failed. He needs a change of scenery.
So, it seems like while he may be available, the risk may outweigh the awards. Svatos may not be more productive than what it would take to acquire him, like a Ryan Jones.
So, readers, what do you think? Would one of these wingers push Nashville over the first round threshold? Are the power play possibilities to great to pass up a trade such as this? Or should the Predators stand pat and dance with who brought them this far? The floor is yours, so weigh in in the poll and comments below.