Narrator Voice: Previously, on “On The Forecheck”....
With the decade winding down, we took an in-depth look at the Predators’ best trades of the 2010s, and to David Poile’s credit there were some great ones! Many of those moves cemented the foundation for the best five-year stretch in team history, including their run to the 2017 Finals and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning season.
But this is the internet in 2019, so we also have to point and laugh at the trades that failed miserably.
Some of these are more cringe-worthy than others. Some are deals that seemed fine on paper, but didn’t help Nashville on the ice. Some involved players that didn’t work as expected in the coach’s system.
One of these, though, might be the biggest whiff in franchise history.
And as a final disclaimer, I’m not going to add the Kyle Turris deal or the P.K. Subban salary dump, just because it’s too soon to judge the long-term impact of those trades at the moment.
5th Worst: Predators Acquire D Denis Grebeshkov from Oilers for 2010 2nd Round Pick (March 1, 2010)
I feel bad for including Grebeshkov, if only because he fell victim to one of the most bizarre injuries in league history during his brief stint in Nashville.
Spoiler Alert: It required him to have emergency surgery on his testicles...
That aside, giving away a second-round pick for the 26-year-old was a bit of a risk. Grebeshkov had battled injuries for much of the previous two years, and despite collecting 39 points with Edmonton the previous year, his defensive abilities were often called into question.
Sure enough, Barry Trotz didn’t feel comfortable giving Grebeshkov a meaningful role down the stretch, leaving him as a healthy scratch for four of the Preds’ six playoff games against Chicago. He did have two points in those two games, but he was also notably caught out of position on Marian Hossa’s overtime goal that capped the Blackhawks’ Game 5 comeback.
Edmonton used the second round pick (which wound up being 48th overall) on Curtis Hamilton. But had the Preds kept it, they would have had players like Jason Zucker, Radko Gudas, and some guy named Calle Järnkrok available at that spot.
4th Worst: Predators Acquire D Hal Gill and Conditional Pick from Canadiens for 2012 2nd Round Pick, F Blake Geoffrion, and F Robert Slaney (February 17, 2012)
Aw, I like Skillsy. But much like the Grebeshkov trade, this was just another instance of the Preds giving away too much for a payoff that was too little.
Poile brought over the veteran Gill, who was going on 37 years of age, from Montreal to add a more physical, stay-at-home presence to the blue line, complementing a more offensive-minded rookie defender by the name of Roman Josi.
While Gill was okay during the playoff run (to be fair, he DID play most of the postseason with a fractured tibia), after the lockout, it was clear Gill’s game simply wasn’t going to translate to the New NHL, where puck possession skills reign supreme. Gill struggled in 2013, getting no points in 32 games, found himself as a frequent healthy scratch down the stretch, and was bought out of his deal the following summer.
The second round pick in the deal wound up becoming the 51st pick in the draft. Chris Tierney, Jordan Martinook, Damon Severson, and Joonas Korpisalo were all on the board at the time. Blake Geoffrion, meanwhile, started turning heads in the Canadiens’ system, and appeared to be on the verge of an NHL call-up before sadly retiring in 2013 due to a skull fracture suffered in a game.
3rd Worst: Predators Acquire F Ryan Hartman and 2018 5th Round Pick from Chicago for 2018 1st Round Pick, 2018 4th Round Pick, and F Victor Ejdsell (February 26, 2018)
If you thought Ryan Hartman got a raw deal in Nashville, raise your hand.
Most fans who think there’s currently a disconnect between Poile and head coach Peter Laviolette often point to this trade as evidence. Poile sent a package that included a first round pick and Ejdsell, at the time one of Nashville’s top forward prospects, to the rival Blackhawks for Hartman.
Hartman, like most Blackhawks in 2018, was having a bad season. But he clearly had the ability to score when put with the right group. He had scored 19 goals as a 22-year-old playing on a line with Jonathan Toews, and many pundits around the league felt he could find that scoring touch again playing alongside Kyle Turris or Ryan Johansen.
Except... that’s not what happened.
Hartman spent most of his tenure on the Preds’ fourth line, and when he was on the ice, his impact was limited. Hartman ranked 23rd in expected goals/60 in his tenure with the team, and had an expected goals % of 47.2%, meaning he gave up better scoring chances than he generated while on the ice.
The Predators gave up on Hartman after just one calendar year, sending him to the Flyers in the trade that brought in Wayne Simmonds (if that trade didn’t include Hartman, that could be its own entry).
Whether or not Hartman was used in the right way, anytime your team burns a first round pick, you have to get something worthwhile out of it. And, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen with Hartman in Nashville.
But at least we got this GIF out of it...
2nd Worst: Predators Trade D Kevin Klein to Rangers for D Michael Del Zotto (January 22, 2014)
Most of the trades on this list have been moves that looked okay on paper, but just didn’t pan out.
This one was just a bad judgment call.
Klein was one of the more popular players on the Predators roster, beloved for his gritty skillset, his ability to block shots and kill penalties, and for his heroics in the 2012 playoff win over Detroit two years prior.
But the Predators wanted to add another dimension to the defense, opting to trade Klein for Michael Del Zotto, a 23-year-old with (reportedly) a higher-offensive upside. Del Zotto was just two years removed from a 41-point season, but was starting to fall down the Rangers’ defensive depth chart.
Del Zotto just never fit in with Barry Trotz’s system, often finding himself alternating between being the Preds’ sixth defender and sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch. He played just 25 games for the Predators, scoring one goal and adding four assists. Poile declined to offer Del Zotto a qualifying offer, and the former first round pick became an unrestricted free agent before his 24th birthday.
Klein, on the other hand, turned into an important piece on a Rangers team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. He averaged just over 19 minutes of ice team a night during that 2015 playoff run, and was a key part on a penalty killing unit that was the league’s fifth best that season.
Granted, the Preds were chock-full of quality defenders around the middle of the decade. But you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the team had Klein on that bottom pair for just another couple of seasons, during a period of time Nashville was desperate for continuity on the bottom pair.
Which takes us to...
Worst Trade of the Decade: Predators Acquire D Cody Franson & F Mike Santorelli from Toronto for 2015 1st Round Pick, F Olli Jokinen, and F Brendan Leipsic (February 15, 2015)
Let me sum this up: The Predators wound up trading a first-round pick on not one, but TWO players who wound up being healthy-scratched for the playoffs.
There was obviously familiarity with both Franson and Santorelli, each of whom were drafted by the Preds. Franson, a top four defender on a terrible Maple Leafs team, was in the middle of a career-best offensive season. Santorelli, meanwhile, had garnered a reputation as a reliable bottom-six forward who could contribute on special teams.
Neither made an impact for their old/new club.
First, both struggled to play a smaller, more supportive role. Franson saw his ice time dip nearly six minutes a game, down from an average of 21:23 with the Leafs, to just 15:25 in his last run with the Preds. His career-best scoring pace — about .58 points per game in Toronto — all but disappeared in Nashville, and he finished the regular season with just 4 points (1 G, 3 A) in 23 appearances.
Santorelli’s story wasn’t much better. With Toronto, he had racked up an impressive 29 points in 57 games despite starting in the defensive zone on 60% of his shifts. In Nashville, Santorelli almost doubled his amount of starts in the offensive zone, but somehow did worse offensively, only collecting four points (also 1 G, 3 A... that must have been a thing).
The two were relegated to depth players during the Preds’ playoff run, with each being scratched at some point during the team’s series against Chicago (Franson for one game, Santorelli for two). Both left the team as unrestricted free agents the following summer.
As far as Nashville’s lost assets? The first rounder was eventually sent to Philadelphia, who used it to draft Travis Konecny 24th overall. Even if the Preds had kept that pick and passed on Konecny, they would have guys like Sebastian Aho, Anthony Beavillier, Jacob Larsson, and Brandon Carlo to choose from.
Brendan Leipsic wound up bouncing around several organizations before finally finding a niche as a fourth-line “energy guy,” setting career highs in goals (7) and points (23) with the Kings and Canucks last season. This year, he’s appeared in every game the league-best Washington Capitals.
Overall, a big miss.
It’s your turn to chime in, Preds fans. Any trades we left out? Any we judged too harshly? Let us know in the comments below, and here’s to many more saucy deals in the 2020s!