Monday night the first proverbial domino of the trade deadline action fell, as news outlets rushed to report the trade of defender Jake Muzzin from the LA Kings to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The price was steep: a blue chip prospect, a first round draft pick, and the rights to sign a player tearing up the OHL right now. This trade does not exactly set the market for the upcoming deadline, as Muzzin still has another year on his contract after this one and is not a true rental, but some idea can still be gathered on what to expect.
Considering the Muzzin trade’s impact on the current market, the needs of the Predators, salary cap considerations, and maintaining a strong future, here are the five players that the Predators should target.
As of Tuesday January 29th, the Predators have $6,942,357 in salary cap space according to CapFriendly. Should more injuries befall the Predators, it makes sense to have a little extra cap space as a “rainy day fund.” This means that any player with an AAV above $5 million will NOT be considered. Furthermore, players likely to be involved in bidding wars will also NOT be considered, as the Predators’ window is open for a number of years and thus there is no need to go “all in” at this time. These conditions knock out Columbus superstar Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene.
Additionally, looking over the Predators’ roster, the biggest need appears to be at either left or right wing. When healthy, Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris work perfectly well as the first and second line centers, and Nick Bonino fills his role on the third line well. Additionally, in a pinch, Colton Sissons’s development allows for more flexibility. Therefore, the five players below are all wingers.
5. Patrick Maroon (STL, LW, 4-10-14, $1.75AAV, UFA)
St. Louis fell from grace this season, entering October as a “hot-take” pick to win the Central Divison. The addition of Ryan O’Reilly was supposed to put the Blues over the top, but their aging and slow defense core combined with shoddy goaltending to sink their ship. Now, 6th in the Central, the Blues may be open to making a deal.
Patrick Maroon hasn’t blown anyone out of the water with his numbers this season, with only 14 points in 41 games. However, luck has not been a friend of Maroon’s: he is only shooting 5.9% this season and has a 94.4 PDO at even strength. This will be a trend among some of these trade targets: players who are afflicted with bad luck, but still control play. Maroon still has a Corsi share of 51.9% and, at 30 years old, provides a stable, veteran presence.
Having a veteran like Maroon who also has suffered from an outlier shooting percentage could be really positive for someone like Kevin Fiala, who is going through his own shooting anomaly, scoring only on 7.6% of his shots this season. Maroon’s locker room presence could help ground some of the younger Predators and, with his poor luck, Maroon is due for a rebound.
4. Jakob Silfverberg (ANA, RW, 12-7-19, $3.75AAV, UFA)
Although the notion of trading for an Anaheim Duck may seem borderline treasonous for some, anyone who follows the Predators should know how complete a player Jakob Silfverberg is. One of the best defensive wingers in the NHL, he can smother you into the boards in his own zone and then snipe a corner at the other end of the ice. He is a complete player who, although he is only elite in his own zone, plays all aspects of the game above average.
With all of the injuries to the Anaheim Ducks this season, Silfverberg has answered the call. He is well on his way to surpassing his 17 goals from last season, already having scored 12. His assists have suffered as teams have been able to focus him with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler all missing time, but he is very clearly a player the Ducks rely on.
Aside from adding another Swede to “Tennesweden”, Silfverberg would add a lot to the Predators’ second line. Silfverberg would provide scoring punch while actually improving shot suppression in the Predators’ own zone. He is the most complete player on this list, and the Predators should absolutely make a few calls to Anaheim about his availability.
3. Chris Kreider (NYR, LW, 22-15-37, $4.63AAV, 1yr)
Bursting onto the NHL scene right after completing his college career in 2012, Chris Kreider eventually became a key component to the Rangers’ 2014 Stanley Cup Finals run. Since then, the core in New York has aged and players like Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh have been traded away.
Accordingly, Chris Kreider finds himself in a unique situation: he’s stuck in the middle between an old core and the new young blood of the Rangers. Considering his high level of play, the Rangers could try and trade him despite his having another year left on his contract.
Kreider is known for his speed and high “compete level,” hustling to every puck and giving the same effort when backchecking. Although his shooting percentage this season is his highest yet and will regress, he is not beating his average by an astronomical amount (15.9% compared to a 13.3% career average). Furthermore, like most players on this list, he fares well in the advanced statistics department, posting a 51.5% Corsi-for and having a pretty average PDO of 99.5%. Moreover, the last two seasons he has stopped playing sheltered minutes, with 50.9% of his starts in the offensive zone last season and 52.5% this season.
Prying Kreider from the New York Rangers would take more assets than most of the people on this list because of the extra year on his contract. However, his quick acceleration and top speed would fit right in line with the Predators’ style of play.
2. Gustav Nyquist (DET, RW, 11-32-43, $4.75AAV, UFA
Here we have our second Swede of this list, Gustav Nyquist. A high scorer despite his low shooting percentages his entire career, Nyquist puts an abundant amount of shots on net. Last season he had 213 shots and attempted 343. This season he already has 132 shots and 230 attempts. His PDO is only 100.5 and has strong possession numbers on a very bad Detroit Red Wings team.
The drawback with Nyquist is his size. It’s no secret that the Predators may want to add size to compete with the big roster up in Winnipeg, and Nyquist only clocks in at 5’11”. Nonetheless, Nyquist has plenty of offensive ability and used to play center, offering some roster flexibility if injuries kick in and center depth becomes a problem. Drawing on his experience as a center, Nyquist plays a very strong defensive game, using positioning to force low-danger shots from his opponents.
1. Ryan Dzingel (OTT, LW, 20-18-38, $1.8AAV, UFA)
It’s no secret: Ottawa is hosting an all-out garage sale of their players, evident since the Mike Hoffman trade last season. While Matt Duchene and Mark Stone are on the trading block, the Predators should instead target the former Ohio State Buckeye Ryan Dzingel. After breaking the 20 goal mark last season, Dzingel is on pace to shatter his career high of 41 points last season - he’s already only three off.
Although he is not the tallest player at 6’0”, Dzingel plays with great pace and energy, similar to Kreider. Moreover, Dzingel has the second-lowest cap hit on this list despite his scoring acumen. Were the Predators able to acquire Dzingel, they would have the flexibility to make one or two other moves if such needs arise.
Speaking of flexibility, Dzingel is able to play on either wing, providing even greater roster flexibility to a lineup that already has Calle Järnkrok and Colton Sissons, who can play pretty much anywhere. If Kevin Fiala hits another cold spell or if head coach Peter Laviolette wants to move Craig Smith down to provide more balance across the forwards, Dzingel would be ready for either side on Kyle Turris’ wing.
Dzingel’s 18.0% shooting is very high, but he could just be breaking out as an excellent scorer: he shot 16.9% the previous season. One can expect some regression, but with his 100.4 PDO, most of his production is truly from his own work ethic. While he may not be the most talked-about player, he would be an excellent addition to the Predators.