Where We Stand Today
For the 2017-2018 season the Nashville Predators (AKA The Handsome Men’s Club) are in a unique position regarding the trade deadline. Coming into the season the team addressed veteran forward depth (Hartnell and Bonino) and added defense depth (Emelin) to help hold serve until Ryan Ellis returned from injury. Early in the season scoring depth continued to be an issue, especially down the middle so general manager David Poile went ahead and addressed the primary need (scoring 2nd line center) with the acquisition of Kyle Turris. Following the trade, the Preds went on a 16-2-2 run vaulting the team back into contention for the top spot in the division. However, injuries have continued to bring adversity as Ellis missed 38 games while Forsberg, Hartnell and Bonino have all missed 10+ at various points of the first half of the season. The shifting roster availability has contributed to a drop in overall team offense. Since December 1st, the Preds are 19th in the league with 43 even strength goals in 22 games and 15th in all scenarios with 64 goals. The goal differential is strong due to the strong defensive corps and tremendous play in net from Rinne and Saros.
With the Predators’ Stanley Cup window wide open, many eyes are now looking back at Poile to see if he will make another big swing to further enhance the roster. Reports from NHL insiders such as Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun have identified the Predators as a team looking to acquire a top 6 forward. With the center depth solidified through the Turris trade, it would appear that wing would be the target. The top 6 wingers on most nights (Forsberg, Arvidsson, Smith and Fiala) have put forth strong seasons but, aside from Forsberg, they are also subject to streaky production. The biggest disappointment thus far has been Pontus Aberg who has not taken the step forward many expected following a tremendous AHL season and strong playoffs with the big club.
From here we will take a look at the categories of players available, some of the skaters in each category and identify some pros and cons of each.
(NOTE: Not including salary as the Preds will have plenty of cap space to acquire any contract for the remainder of the season. Cap space beyond the current season is a discussion for a different fanpost.)
Rentals (UFA after this season):
Evander Kane (BUF) – Age 26, 16G, 36P, 190 SOG, 8.4%SH, 53%CF
Kane is a highly talented winger who can play in open ice or a power game. He is putting a lot of shots on net which is something the Preds need. On the downside he has shown to be injury prone and has a lot of off-ice questions. He would be a great on-ice add but the questions cast a lot of doubt on Poile pursuing him. Reported cost is a roster player, a prospect, a 1st round pick and a conditional pick.
Thomas Vanek (VAN) – Age 33, 14G, 35P, 97 SOG, 14.4%SH, 50%CF
Put Vanek in front of the net with skilled players and he will score goals, it’s that simple. Put in the right role Vanek can be highly productive. With his increasing age Vanek has lost some foot speed. and asking him to be a top line scorer is asking for disappointment. Assumed cost is mid round picks, possibly conditional.
Michael Grabner (NYR) – Age 30, 21G, 25P, 109 SOG, 19.2%SH, 41.8%CF
Grabner has seen a goal scoring resurgence the last two seasons. He has blazing speed which creates a lot of breakaway opportunities. However, his goal numbers are buoyed by an unsustainable shooting percentage and he creates almost nothing for teammates. Also, that Corsi percentage has yikes written all over it. The Patrick Eaves trade last season is a likely comparable for cost. Eaves commanded a 2nd round pick conditional to a 1st.
Rick Nash (NYR) – Age 33, 15G, 25P, 157 SOG, 9.55%SH, 50%CF
For how long have Preds fans dreamed of having Rick Nash in gold? A power winger with great hands, Nash would be a strong scoring add. Age has slowed his foot speed, but Nash is still an excellent penalty killer with a penchant for creating shorthanded opportunities. Hartnell-Bonino-Nash would be a handful for any team although the lack of speed would be concerning. The Rangers would like look to acquire a 1st round pick and a prospect for Nash’s services.
Extended Rentals (Contract for 1 year following current):
Max Pacioretty (MTL) – Age 29, 15G, 29P, 183 SOG, 8.74%SH, 56.6%CF
Probably the biggest name on this entire list, Pacioretty is a very accomplished goal scoring winger. With his pedigree the cost would be high but well worth it given his capability to put the puck in the net. On a bad team, the high Corsi percentage is also very attractive for a Preds team that wants to own possession. The asking price for Kane above is at least what Pacioretty will cost.
Wayne Simmonds (PHI) – Age 29, 16G, 29P, 114 SOG, 14.4%SH, 56.3%CF
Simmonds is similar to a younger Rick Nash. A power winger with good hands he has found his spot scoring goals from the net front in Philly. Simmonds is also a solid defensive player. With 25+ goals in each of the last 5 full seasons, the cost would be very high and there’s no guarantee Philly even wants to trade him.
Gustav Nyquist (DET) – Age 28, 14G, 23P, 122 SOG, 11.5%SH, 54.3%CF
Nyquist is a bit of a paradox. He scored 28 goals in only 57 games in ’13-’14 but his production steadily decreased every season after. He is seeing a bit of resurgence with 14 goals at the All-Star break but may not have a long-term place on a rebuilding Detroit team. Nyquist could be a talented add at a comparably reasonable cost if Detroit is willing to part with him. Perhaps a second round pick and a prospect would do the trick.
Long Term Investments (Contract for 2+ years following current):
Mike Hoffman (OTT) – Age 28, 12G, 30P, 152 SOG, 7.9%SH, 56.6%CF
If you want speed and finishing ability on the wing, then Hoffman is the guy. He is a burner who has improved his goal scoring touch throughout his career. With his talent he will attract a lot of attention from other GM’s and the cost will not be cheap. However, slotting him with some of the other speed in the Preds lineup could make sweet music. Given Hoffman’s age, remaining contract, and recent production it would likely take a first round pick, a roster player and a decent prospect to get him out of Ottawa.
Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) – Age 23, 12G, 28P, 127 SOG, 9.5%SH, 55%CF
When paired with other talented players, Galchenyuk can put up strong numbers shown by his 30 goal outing in ’15-’16 and 12 goals this season playing mostly 3rd and 4th line minutes. For whatever reason he has not been able to instill belief in the Montreal coaching and front office that he is capable of holding a top 6 role consistently. Still only 23, the future for Galchenyuk is very bright if he can get into the right situation. He won’t come cheap but the potential is obvious.
Prospects (Young skaters either not utilized or needing a change of scenery):
Continued success creates a challenge to continually foster high level talent. The Predators are no exception to this as they have largely drafted in the back half of the first round and have used a number of mid-round picks as trade deadline assets to bring in playoff depth. With defense depth still looking strong the Preds could look at some younger players either ready or almost ready for NHL duty.
Sam Reinhart (BUF)
Obviously, Reinhart is more than a prospect but he doesn’t really fit in the above categories. His current contract is up after this season but at age 22 he has multiple RFA years remaining. It would not be a reach to say that Reinhart simply has not worked out in Buffalo. His skill level is evident but the production hasn’t been there. It may be time for a change of scenery as Buffalo again trends toward a top 5 pick.
Nikolay Goldobin (VAN)
Goldobin has gobs of offensive talent but has not quite shown the complete game. San Jose ended up using him as a trade chip last season to get Jannik Hansen for their playoff run. Now in Vancouver, he has only appeared in 14 games this season.
Jake Virtanen (VAN)/Josh Ho-Sang (NYI)
Two players that have been enigmas due to their high draft status, level of talent and reported attitude issues. Ho-Sang has been labeled selfish and uncoachable while Virtanen has been labeled as someone who doesn’t play hard every game. Both are still very young and could certainly contribute positively in the right scenario. Remains to be seen if Canucks and Islanders will wait it out with these two or move on.
Sonny Milano (CBJ)
Milano is a very skilled forward with a bright future. He has spent the majority of the season with Columbus, appearing in 35 games. It is doubtful Columbus would look to move him unless they view him as too expensive when his ELC is up.
Unless David Poile can work some serious trade magic to get the prices for the top level players down then it probably doesn’t make sense to go after Pacioretty, Simmonds, Kane or Hoffman. From a pure rental perspective both Nash and Vanek are interesting options as they will cost less to acquire and could fit into the ‘depth scoring’ role. Nyquist and Galchenyuk are both interesting options as they could slide up and down the forward lineup as needed and may come at a lower cost than the top level players. However, if Poile is willing to part with a 1st round pick and Dante Fabbro then that is a solid starting point for any player on this list. It could also be prudent to look at some of the ‘change of scenery’ younger forwards and see if Coach Laviolette can bring another level out of them.
Player Information and Statistics courtesy of: TSN.com, Naturalstattrick.com, Capfriendly.com