Throughout the end of season press conference, David Poile expressed a desire to keep this Predators team together and not make major changes. It makes sense considering the team as currently constructed just put together a President’s Trophy regular season. Now that a few UFA contracts and some buyout money is coming off the books there is another opportunity expand the talent on the roster and we all know Poile is no stranger to a bold move when he smells blood in the water. With the salary cap landscape and an ever changing cast of contenders there is an arms race to build a lengthy Cup window. So the question remains… does Poile have one more wave of his magic wand to bring in another high-end talent?
Join Paul (ppeterson614) and Boyd (bfarrish05) as we pull out the tinfoil hats and explore some wild possibilities for Poile to shock the hockey world one more time.
William Nylander or Mitch Marner and Connor Brown/ Kapanen for Ryan Ellis, Smith and a pick
Nylander (20G, 41A, 61P, 50.17CF%, 62.28 GF%, 51.21HDCF%)
Marner (22G, 47A, 69P, 51.8CF%, 53.33GF%, 52.24HDCF%)
Paul: This one is tough for me. Nylander and Marner are very close and each has their pros and cons. Nylander produced far more 5v5 (24th among forwards) however, he spent about 70% of his 5v5 time with Matthews where Marner did not. The big issue for me with Marner is he finished 59th in 5v5 scoring with only 37 points. That number tied Filip Forsberg who only played 67 games. Ultimately I think either player is an improvement in the Top 6. Smith finished 75th in 5v5 scoring and Fiala finished 101st. Where Brown and Kapanen fit in for me is I don’t think Ellis is enough to get one of the previously mentioned forwards. While the value may be fair I don’t think Toronto goes for it without a forward who can slot in a top 6 role coming back. That means Smith and I believe Smith and Ellis for one of those guys is a large overpayment. Brown is far more likely. He’s was a 24 year old 14G 14A guy this season. He hit 20 goals and 16 assists last season. He feels similar to the Hartman acquisition. Kapanen would be the prefered guy. He is also a highly regarded 21 year old with speed to burn making him less likely.
Boyd: Both of Nylander and Marner are phenomenal young talents who could do great things in Laviolette’s system. Flipping through their deeper statistical measures, they stack up almost exactly. Marner shoots more at 5v5 but some of that is certainly attributed to Nylander playing with Matthews. I do disagree a bit on Nylander producing "far more" in that the distance in rank is a bit misleading. Nylander had 45 5v5 points while Marner had 37. That’s 8 points over the course of 82 games. There just happen to be a LOT of forwards in that 35 to 45 point range at 5v5 including Tavares (39) and Tarasenko (41). Side note, did you know Sebastian Aho had more 5v5 points than either of them? A little recency bias makes me lean towards Marner watching how he picked his game up in the playoff series vs Boston. He was getting beat up but making some truly great plays (where have we heard of that before)? The downside would be the top 6 getting objectively small between Arvy, Fiala and Marner. Instead of asking for Brown/Kapanen I might target one of their younger defensemen or prospects. Connor Carrick is NHL-ready and a solid puck mover who could make an interesting Yber replacement. Andrew Nielsen would be a solid get as a prospect D.
Leon Draisaitl for Ellis, Smith, pick
Leon Draisaitl (25G, 45A, 70P, 52.26CF%, 49.17GF%, 52.27HDCF%)
Paul: He’s 22 and he already has back to back 70 point seasons. Yes, Mcdavid does inflate those numbers some however, at 5v5 he only spent a little over half his time away from McDavid (498 minutes with 628 minutes without) without missing much production (28GF without, 31GF with). It's a high price to pay and one that would sting. However, he’s the type of game changer I think Nashville may need to get over the hump. He finished 32nd in 5v5 scoring which, as mentioned, came mostly away from McDavid. He never had a solid line but for most part spent time with Lucic and Maroon. I’d say Turris and Kevin Fiala are more than capable of producing with him. Why it works for everyone is that Edmonton gets the top pair defenseman they need, a pick, and a speedy craig smith who should fit very nicely next to Mcdavid. Honestly, the image of Craig Smith and Connor Mcdavid skating down the ice toward the Nashville goal is somewhat scary. Ultimately though, it’s deal I would absolutely make.
Boyd: Draisaitl is almost difficult to write about because its all so simple. He’s just really good. In basically every statistical category he outperformed every teammate not named McDavid. The only knocks I could find is that at 5v5 Draisaitl had 58 individual high danger shots for which ranked him 59th in the league among centers and he only had 5 rush attempts. So the numbers suggest he is playing from the outside too much which is odd considering his size and hands. However, if he’s putting up 70 points regularly not getting to high danger areas then he could really have a high ceiling. Also, with his size (6’1" 214) Draisaitl would be one of the 3 or 4 biggest players on the roster next to Johansen, Watson and Ekholm. End of the day Chiarelli would be nuts to trade him but we also would have said that about Taylor Hall so anything is possible. Ellis and Smith should make an attractive roster player package but they should be asking for a first rounder as well given Draisaitl’s age and pedigree. That might end up being too rich a price for Poile to pull the trigger.
Ryan O’Reilly for Ellis and picks/ depth forward
Ryan O’Reilly (24G, 37A 61P, 54.86CF%, 49.23GF%, 56.05HDCF%)
Paul: The O’Reilly price will be steep and I’m not sure what it would take to acquire him. Rumor has it he wants out and with the way Nashville has spent assets we may not have what it takes to win a trade war. All that said, the reason Nashville could win is Ellis. If Housley has any say at all you have to think he’d jump at the chance to coach Ellis again. From our perspective we get another solid forward however, for 7.5 million dollars and the price it would take to acquire him I hesitate to say he’s worth it. Still, a talented forward that may want out of his current situation sounds right up Poile magic alley.
Boyd: O’Reilly is an interesting case as it seems like he’s worked his way out of two locker rooms. However both Colorado and Buffalo have been pretty dysfunctional environments. O’Reilly is one of the best two-way centers in the game, like an A- version of Kopitar. He is younger than Kopitar as well but under contract for a long, long time although Buffalo has already paid out the high salary years. The majorly concerning factor for O’Reilly this season was his 5v5 production. For a player who eclipsed 60 points, he only had 21 at even strength which was good for the 100th ranked center. On the flip side O’Reilly ranked top 15 among centers in power play and shorthanded points. While O'Reilly would be a strong add to the roster, for his contract I think Poile goes a different direction.
Sign John Tavares as a UFA – Trade Smith for Prospect/Pick to free roster spot
Tavares (37G, 47A, 84P, 48.47CF%, 49.15 GF%, 47.17HDCF%)Boyd: Tavares is obviously the crown jewel of the free agent class. After toiling away year after year on mediocre to terrible Islanders teams he has the chance to hit unrestricted free agency. Tavares has the skill, physicality and mental makeup to take over a game and will his way to a goal. One only has to watch his series winner against Florida a couple years ago to prove that. However, digging deeper into his stats makes for an interesting debate on his value. In terms of 5v5 Points/60 over the past 3 seasons, Tavares falls between Joe Pavelski and Ryan Getzlaf which is also lower than Stamkos and Scheifele. On the flip side, Tavares has a higher iCF% than all of them which shows the rate that Tavares is creating shot attempts as well as preventing them. In the end, it reinforces that Tavares is an elite player who has been on, at best, uneven teams. The cost to obtain Tavares will certainly be high but the Preds could realistically pull it off. At minimum, Smith would have to be traded to clear both cap and roster space. Potentially someone like Jarnkrok or Hartman would also have to be moved. Tavares will command at least the Stamkos contract (8x$8.5M) and probably closer to the Kopitar contract (8x$10M). Should the Preds do it? I’d love to see Poile at least talk to Tavares and see what he can work out because let’s face it Tavares would look great in gold. UPDATE: As of this writing, Gord Miller of TSN reported that Tavares wants to play in Nashville. Giddy Up.
(starts just after the 9:30 mark)
Paul: A virtual dream come true for both the Preds and Tavares. If you follow what he has always asked for Nashville is just that, a contender! He would be the piece that more likely than not puts this team over the top. Do I think this is possible? Yes I do, and the more I think about this the more I love it and even think it could happen. If you read between the lines everything Tavares has said indicates he wants to win and soon. There is a very limited list of teams that can offer that and still afford him. Maybe it's the hopeful Preds fan in me, but I truly believe that if I’m Tavares and Poile calls I’m listening. It will probably require taking a discount of a couple million dollars, but if someone offered me 11 million to exit early versus 9 or 10 to have my name on a cup I’m taking the 9 million. All in all, do I think this will happen? Unfortunately, no. However, Poile had the guts to ask for Karlsson when he already had 4 top tier defensemen so I wouldn’t bet against it either.
Erik Karlsson for Josi, Smith, Gaudreau and 2019 3rd round pick
Karlsson (9G, 53A, 62P, 50.74CF%, 42.96GF%, 49.16HDCF%)
Boyd: We know Poile inquired about Karlsson. There were simply too many reports about it to ignore the possibility. Karlsson’s resume needs no introduction. Along with Brent Burns, Karlsson is a top-2 offensive defenseman in the NHL today and has won two Norris trophies. In the Preds never ending quest to have the highest scoring defense corps of all time, Karlsson would be the absolute cherry. Karlsson is an elite skater, puck carrier and can generate offense through his passing and shot generation. The obvious knock on Karlsson is his questionable defensive prowess. While he is generally not a liability, Karlsson does not possess the shutdown abilities expected from a defenseman playing huge minutes. Ottawa will ask a king’s ransom for Karlsson and rightfully so. With knowledge that Ottawa loves to push contract decisions out as far as possible, Josi would be a more attractive piece than Ellis to replace Karlsson on the blueline. Including Smith gives a hard working 20+ goal scorer. Francophone Gaudreau and his ability to play multiple positions would be an attractive piece. Ottawa would get a higher pick if it weren’t for Karlsson’s short contract span. I'd love to see Poile take one more swing just to see what the cost really is. If this is close to it, the idea of adding Karlsson may just be too much for Poile to ignore.
Paul: 62 points… PLAYING THE TRAP! He is in my opinion the best defenseman in the world. Similar to Tavares I do think this is possible but unlikely. However, where there’s smoke there’s fire and the rumors between Nashville and Ottawa definitely created a lot of smoke. I think both sides would make this trade tomorrow except for one hiccup… Eeli Tolvanen. He will be the piece Ottawa wants in return and without him included I don’t see this move happening. Maybe Poile tosses in a guy like Fabbro since all signs indicate Ellis will be signed long term. Unfortunately though, without Tolvanen I think this deal falls through. In the end, I think this situation ends up very much like Tavares. The price to get him is never paid and Karlsson will walk in free agency.
Jeff Skinner for Smith, Jarnkrok and prospect
Skinner (24G, 25A, 49P, 55.07CF%, 41.18GF%, 56.55HDCF%)
Boyd: Skinner is such an enigma in that he has hit 30 goals (3x), 28 goals and 24 goals but somehow keeps ending up in trade rumors. He is, however, a pure goal scorer that has a career high of 63 points despite the multiple goal seasons. But when you look at his numbers, boy does Skinner generate some offense. Among all forwards at 5v5 Skinner ranked 3rd in shots on goal (213), 3rd in individual Corsi for, 7th in individual high danger Corsi for, and 2nd in rush attempts (19). The dude simply gets pucks on net. How good could he be playing next to Johansen, Turris, or even Tavares instead of Victor Rask? Skinner does have a concussion history but he seems to be past that in recent seasons. He also only has one more season on his contract at $5.75M so there is some long term cost risk. If Carolina’s new leadership chooses not to keep going with Skinner they will need forward depth that can put the puck in the net. The interesting challenge to this deal is that the Canes have no need for defensemen so Dante Fabbro likely is not the enticement he could be in other deals. Smith and Jarnkrok offer a little more rugged style, good scoring touch, more roster flexibility and more term at roughly the same dollars. Some sweetener will probably need to get the deal done in terms of prospects or picks. If Poile is looking for that meaningful upgrade, Carolina should be on his list of phone calls.
Paul: I really like Skinner so let me start with that. He has a very good shot, he’s quick and tough to defend with the puck on his stick and does a good job getting himself open for shots, hence those very good goal numbers one of which was 37 goals in 77 games. There is also an interesting fact working in Nashville’s favor here. Carolina’s draft position. At the top of the draft there are a couple of guys who are predicted to be some very talented sharpshooters in this league and could replace skinner. Given his contract situation they be looking to move him and find his replacement this summer. That hopefully could bring the price down because, if there is any issue I have with this deal it’s what it may take to get it him. As Boyd said, Carolina has no need for defensemen and Nashville doesn’t have an expendable group of forwards. This could be a future trade deadline move as much as it is a summer one. For example, let’s say that Tolvanen isn’t a star just yet, Poile could absolutely look back at this next deadline as a rental.
So what is the most likely?
Boyd: With the noise around Ellis wanting to sign an extension now and Poile confirming they are talking I just don’t see him getting traded at this point (granted any of the other top 4 could be substituted in the Ellis trades above). In terms of publicly available information we know that Poile asked about Karlsson and TSN reported Tavares has interest in Nashville. So for today let’s go with what we know. I’m going to say the most likely move would be Tavares. If the cost is simply too high then taking a look at Skinner would be really interesting.
Paul: I’m gonna stick with my idea from the very beginning. I like the trade with Toronto. It makes sense from everyone’s perspective and can be one of those true hockey trades. Either Nylander or Marner is an instant upgrade to the roster and, because of their age, can be looked at as an investment rather than an overreaction to an early exit. Still, John Tavares in gold would be one beautiful sight!
All statistics courtesy of capfriendly.com, naturalstattrick.com and corsica.hockey.