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A Rick Nash Trade to the Predators Makes Sense, But Not Really

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David Poile chasing after a high-risk, high-reward player like Rick Nash is not very David Poile-like.

New York Rangers v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Recently, we learned that not only did Rick Nash add Nashville to the list of possible destinations the Rangers can trade him to, but that Nashville is a leading candidate to acquire the 33-year-old winger.

Over the last week, many have speculated that Nashville would be an “ideal fit” for Nash. The Predators are looking to bulk up for a deep playoff run, Nash would like another shot at a Stanley Cup, Nash has the ability to provide depth scoring... it makes a lot of sense.

But a potential trade for Rick Nash might not be the solution the Predators are looking for.

Look, Rick Nash is very, very good. He’s a career 12.1% shooter with 433 career NHL goals. He’s played in 77 career playoff games, and though his performance in those games is suspect (that 12.1 drops to a 5.7 in the playoffs), that kind of experience is invaluable.

What has made Nash so effective in his career is his large frame and incredible hands. Even at 6’5” and 210 pounds, he can navigate in traffic with the puck and pick corners around elite goalies. He’s James Neal in Ryan Johansen’s frame. Or maybe he’s Johansen minus the passing ability but with more urge to shoot.

A whole lot more urge to shoot.

Here’s his shot volume, according to Ryan Stimson’s passing project:

Getting a lot of shots off in tight spaces, many of which are in high danger areas, is a skill that not many players have. Certainly it’s something the Predators have been lacking most of this season.

But one thing Nash lacks at this point in his career is speed. He was never a lightning rod on the outside and he still isn’t. Compared to the other wingers on the Predators, I’m not sure Nash would be faster than any of them. Filip Forsberg is probably the slowest of the bunch and that says a lot about the speed Nashville possesses.

On top of this, Nash’s playing style might not lend itself to Laviolette’s up-tempo offense in which players are constantly cycling and covering for pinching defensemen. Other winger-center hybrids like Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Nick Bonino are much more apt to play that style, as they can defend about as well as they can create offense.

There’s a great deal of balance across Laviolette’s forward line combinations (post-McLeod, that is). No line has an obvious offensive or defensive deficiency, no line has an obvious speed deficiency, everyone takes faceoffs, everyone plays special teams, everyone has multiple roles.

There’s no way to know for sure unless the Preds trade for him and find out, but I’m not sure Nash is a guy that can provide that balance at this stage in his career. And I would hate to see the Preds part with a top prospect and some draft picks only to found out they acquired a one-trick pony who is a turnstile on defense. We all remember Cody Franson, right?

This brings me to the cost that it would take to get Nash in Nashville.

At the very least, the Rangers will want a solid prospect plus a couple of draft picks. Matt Duchene fetched the Avalanche three prospects (!!!) and six draft picks (!!!). The cost of centers is always high, plus Duchene wasn’t just a rental, but that trade announced a “sellers market to end all sellers markets” to the rest of the NHL. Damn you, Joe Sakic.

I’d say the Predators would have to part with at least one (hopefully not two) of these prospects: Dante Fabbro, Eeli Tolvanen, Victor Ejdsell, Patrick Harper, Emil Pettersson, or Yakov Trenin.

If I’m ranking those prospects in order of who I’d prefer to give up in exchange for a few months of Rick Nash in a Predators uniform, here it is:

(That means none of them.)

The other wrinkle here is that the Predators would have to part with another roster player in order to acquire Nash. They currently sit at 23 of 23 contracts, and that’s without Mike Fisher officially on the books. Assuming they sign Fisher before the deadline, if they also get Rick Nash, they probably lose one of these players:

  • Miikka Salomaki
  • Pontus Aberg
  • Matt Irwin
  • Yannick Weber
  • Anthony Bitetto
  • (there’s no way we can convince them to take Alexei Emelin)

Probably one of those players is thrown in as part of the deal, which would be fine, but there’s upside to these players that I think Nashville would miss. Aberg is still a high-upside scorer, Irwin and Weber were just signed to team friendly contracts and are not awful bottom-pairing defensemen. Salomaki brings an edge, as does Bitetto, and also both are cheap.

Looking at David Poile’s track record, a trade for a high risk, high reward kind of player like Rick Nash misses the mark. It’s not very Poile-like. Last year he acquired P.A. Parenteau and Vernon Fiddler for very low cost and neither one really panned out. That’s fine; it happens. When you play nickel slots, you don’t really expect to hit the jackpot.

Also, speaking of games, Poile doesn’t play the “last minute trade deadline” game very often (at least not as a buyer). His trades are slow-moving, methodical, analytical projects that take weeks and months to work out. Poile trades are like exchanging a mortgage on your two-bedroom condo in Miami Beach, FL for a secluded mountain chalet in Aspen, CO. It takes time to make these decisions and you have to value your assets very carefully.

Nash has been officially on the market for what, a week maybe? Perhaps there were rumblings behind closed doors for longer than that, but Poile hasn’t likely been dreaming of Nash all season. Not like with Ryan Johansen or Kyle “Matt Duchene” Turris.

So why is there all this smoke surrounding Nashville. Surely there must be fire, right?

Perhaps Poile is staying active in the trade talks for Nash to drive up the price for an in-division rival like Dallas or St. Louis. Forcing other teams to give up more prospects for Nash and then turning around and beating them in the playoffs would be just another feather in Poile’s cap.

Or maybe Poile is keeping the phone off the hook long enough to see if something else materializes. In a way, that’s how Subban and Forsberg happened. Staying open in conversations with other desperate GMs, you never know who they might offer. Maybe Jeff Gorton, in addition to eating half of Nash’s salary, decides to throw in a roster player that can help soften the blow of only getting a rental for this year.

For a few years now, the “In Poile We Trust” refrain has been echoing in the Predators’ media halls and for good reason. He’s certainly made some incredible moves over the last half-decade or so that have changed the course of this franchise (even if he did let James Neal go for absolutely nothing :)).

I trust that Poile will make the right call here.