There's only one thing we know for certain as the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline nears: Nashville won't be sellers.
For the first time since 2012, Nashville is in great position to not only enter the playoffs, but do some damage when they get there. They're also within reach of the franchise's first division championship and President's Trophy. So, at the risk of stating the obvious, they won't be shipping out position players for future picks.
But just what they should do is a completely different story. More than half the league is looking to acquire assets and improve their team, either to gear up for a postseason run or tweak just to have a chance to get into the playoffs. That leaves only a few have-nots able to ship out whatever good player(s) still remain on their roster. With so few teams willing to sell, bidding wars start which inflates the prices for players, some of which are only signed through the end of the year.
Nashville has a few holes that could be plugged with a move or two, but the biggest argument to trying to add too much is how the team has run like a well-oiled machine all season. Sixth in possession, total scoring, and goals per game does not happen by accident. "Chemistry" is one of those intangible buzzwords that carries more narrative than substance, so does bringing in one player really affect the dichotomy of the locker room that much? Maybe not, but it can have adverse affects with on ice play. Look no further than St. Louis' Ryan Miller experiment last year.
David Poile said last month he is looking for a top-six forward to bolster the team. How does that affect the current iteration of the top six? Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro, and either Craig Smith or James Neal seem set on the top line. So does Mike Fisher move down to the third line and Calle Jarnkrok to the wing? Does Colin Wilson take over the center position or is that filled by the trade? It's impossible to tell until it happens, but the prices of all those players vary wildly.
NHL Trade Deadline
NHL Trade Deadline
Nashville is still building and maturing the pieces on its roster, both in the NHL and in the minors. Those that would fetch a handsome return are the ones that have been helping the team win all season, or the ones that could help them in the future. If Poile is thinking of swapping some players out, he better make sure whoever is coming in is going to help now and in the future, not just now. Look at the Hornqvist/Neal trade as an example of that.
While the Predators do have some potential rental players of their own they can ship out, none of their situations seem to lend themselves to exercising that option.
Mike Ribeiro? Not going anywhere. Even though it's not guaranteed he's going to sign here next year, he's too valuable to the team, and they would sink without him. Sound familiar?
Mike Fisher? He'd command a good deal of value for a contender looking to add a hard-nosed third line player, who can fill in on the second line in a pinch and is great at special teams. But aside from his own personal reasons, Fisher is another key cog in the power play/penalty kill machine, and has been dynamite with James Neal and Colin Wilson. That Nashville has reached out to start contract negotiations should be a clue that they still feel he's part of the team.
Matt Cullen and Olli Jokinen? Two players with a lot of mileage on their odometer and who knows how much gas left in the tank. Not a ton of value to be had unless Poile needs to just open up a roster spot.
Anton Volchenkov? He could get a small pick or two, depending on how the injury situation on the blue line works itself out. But again, not an asset that's going bring a lot in return.
The biggest assets they have are the defensemen, four of which all 29 teams would fight to have. They're also one of the Predators' biggest strengths, and few things are more important come playoff time than good goaltending and good defense. They'd have to be willing to sacrifice some of that if they wanted to add more scoring punch, which they may not even need.
The presently constructed roster is not a shoo-in Cup contender, but it has its strengths. The weaknesses it has are not going to be filled through one day of trades. Either way, David Poile is not a man who will sit idly by if he finds a way to make his team better, both in the short term and in the long term. He should consider staying pat, just because of how well the team has done to this point, but there is always room for improvement.
If the Predators can get a small piece or two to help them out down the stretch, they should consider it as long as the price is fair. Otherwise, they're better off addressing any major roster issues in the summer. Trading the farm or high draft picks for a flashy name or a rental player would be a mistake and really doesn't make sense right now. The window to win is just starting to open, and there's no need to get impatient and tinkering so it slams shut... again.