It’s that time of the year again; the months-long holiday/horror show known as NHL free agency and trade-time.
For those who enjoy chaos, Merry Christmas! However, for everyone else, I offer you my sympathies as you cling to the jerseys and shirseys of your favorite players.
As most of Nashville still mourns the departure of the Predators’ all-around best defenseman and off-ice personality powerhouse P.K. Subban, it seems like an appropriate time to delve into the decision-making made by General Manager David Poile.
Trades are inevitable and blockbuster moves don’t always work out in the way that fans or teams would like them to.
Sometimes, the payoff comes later, other times it doesn’t come at all, and then there are the trades that make you praise the hockey gods even if it wasn’t what you originally thought you wanted.
Subban’s trade was more of a salary dump to create cap space for free agency rather than acquire on-ice impact, and that may be a bitter pill to swallow for fans considering the fan-favorite was acquired at the cost of the Preds’ beloved captain Shea Weber.
Let’s take a look at some of Poile’s biggest trades, in no particular order:
Traded: Shea Weber | Aquired: P.K. Subban
The mother of them all.
It’s safe to say the Preds trading their captain of six years came as a shock to Music City. June 29, 2016, Smashville said goodbye to Weber for fellow defensive stalwart P.K. Subban. Poile sent mouths agape and Weber’s 14 years/$110 million contract with an AAV of $7.857 million to Montreal for Subban’s 8 years/$72 million contract with an AAV of $9 million.
Winner: Nashville. (Kind of.) Though parting is such sweet sorrow, P.K. wooed the fang-finger faithful quickly and the Preds made a Cinderella-esque run to the playoffs the following year in 2017. — Now, two years removed from the trade, the Preds are fresh off a first-round playoff exit and Poile is in the midst of a retool of sorts, it seems.
Aquired: Peter Forsberg | Traded: Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent (OHL), 2007 1st and 3rd draft picks
The first aim at a ‘big one.’
Though this was not Poile’s first big signing, it was one of the first times the Preds GM took aim at a big, established name for the sake of the post season. This one had to hurt for Forsberg. He was named Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers in September 2006 and just five short months later, he was shipped down south. For Preds fans, this was huge. Forsberg was a Hart Trophy winner and five-time All-Star, but it was also a high-risk/high-reward scenario for the established player with injury problems. He was coming off of a summer where he underwent ankle surgery on both ankles, suffered a concussion and back problems that sidelined him during his time with the Flyers, and was also considering retirement.
Winner: Not Nashville. In the end, the star power didn’t have the fire behind it that Poile hoped there would be. The Preds were bounced in the first round by the San Jose Sharks, a series in which Forsberg posted four points. Not only did he not return to the team the following year, but he also didn’t return to the NHL at all.
Traded: Mike Dunham | Aquired: Thomas Kloucek, Rem Murray, and Marek Zidlicky
Bye-bye to a star goalie.
Before there there was Pekka, there was Mike Dunham. The Preds selected the goalie in the 1998 Expansion Draft, and we all know how Smashville loves their goalies. However, in December 2002, the Preds traded Dunham to the New York Rangers. The real prize in this trade was the rights to Marek Zidlicky, an NHL-ready defender playing in Finland due to the Rangers depth and contract negotiations. He recorded his first point and first goal in back-to-back games, beginning with his NHL debut game. Zidlicky was also the first Pred to play every game in his first year.
Winner: Nashville. Though losing a star goalie is always tough, Dunham’s departure opened the door for Tomas Vokoun to get his shot in the net. They also got a young, star defender in Zidlicky.
Acquired: Cliff Ronning, Richard Lintner | Traded: Future considerations
Preds acquire their first star player.
This was Poile’s first moment to shine. Their first year in the league, Poile took a chance on an aging center who’d already been in the league 12 years. Proving age isn’t anything but a number sometimes, 33-year-old Ronning quickly endeared himself first to Smashville fans—and also to the stats sheet. In his nearly four years with the team, Ronning led the team in scoring and only recorded less than 50 points once—and to be fair, he would have hit the 50-point mark had he not been traded to the LA Kings. Ronning was also a leader for the up-and-coming team, mentoring future Preds legends like David Legwand.
Winner: Nashville. Sometimes, taking a chance on aging talent pays off in the form of solid on-ice play.
Acquired: Steve Sullivan | Traded: 2nd round picks in the 2004 and 2005 NHL Draft
The fan favorite.
Steve Sullivan was another risk-reward move for Poile, but not nearly the size of Peter Forsberg. Sullivan’s career began with a rocky start, bouncing from team to team before finding success with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Preds traded for Sully in February of 2004 and he made an impact on the ice right away, scoring a hat trick in his first game with the team. In just 24 games in his first year with the team, he recorded 30 points. Not bad.
Winner: Nashville. The two picks the Preds gave up—who turned into Michael Blunden and Ryan Garlock—did not last long in Chicago and did not end up being big NHL impact players in general. Sullivan also became a Bill Masterson Trophy winner after overcoming a back injury in 2009.
Acquired: Mike Fisher | Traded: 1st round pick in 2011, Conditional 3rd round pick in 2012
It’s a match made in Music City matrimony
This trade wasn’t just a ‘big get’ for the Preds, but also for the entire city of Nashville. It’s Mr. Carrie Underwood, y’all! Bringing Mike Fisher to Nashville felt more right than pouring a nice, cold glass of sweet tea to go with your fresh-out-of-the-oven Loveless Cafe biscuits. Outside of Captain Daniel Alfredsson, Fisher was the Ottawa Senators’ biggest star. On the ice, Fisher was more-or-less the Preds’ version of comfort food: never necessarily the star they might’ve hoped he would be, but solid in putting up points.
Winner: Is this really even necessary? Like a prince-in-waiting, Fisher was named Captain of the Preds in 2016, following the departure of Weber. His veteran leadership (and country music superstar wife) made him an obvious choice and he led the team to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history that same year. The people love Mr. Underwood, y’all.
Acquire: Filip Forsberg | Trade: Michael Latta, Martin Erat
You’ve been bamboozled (Joey Tribbiani voice).
Let’s be clear, this is David Poile’s best move to date, simply by the fact that he absolutely pulled the rug out from under George McPhee, ultimately eventually costing McPhee his job with the Washington Capitals, and fueling what’s probably a burning desire for revenge. Don’t get me wrong, Marty was beloved in Smashville, but convincing McPhee that he and a scrappy grinder like Michael Latta were worth the phenom that is Filip Scoresberg? Oh, you’re a sneaky one, Mr. Poile. The young superstar has also already earned an ‘A’ on his jersey, which came in 2017 when Roman Josi was named captain.
Winner: SCOOORRRREEESSBEEEERRRGGG (Paul McCann voice). Though Josi is a great choice for captain, part of me was surprised when the ‘C’ didn’t go to Forsberg. Also, have you seen those numbers?
Traded: Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling | Acquired: James Neal
A ‘pest’ for a ‘pest’
With this trade, David Poile was seemingly looking to recreate the “I’m you, but stronger” meme, before it actually became a thing. Hörnqvist and Neal are very similar on the ice with their agitating scorers style of play. While ‘Horny’ is generally the ‘meaner’ of the two, not afraid to get in the middle of a scrum and throw his body around, Neal is generally the guy you want to fight, but who is not going to fight you. He’s here for the finesse.
Winner: Nashville. Though Hörnqvist had become a fan-favorite in Smashville, Neal’s on ice abilities were even better than expected, putting up impressive numbers in the stat sheets in his first year and being a clear, go-to leader in their Stanley Cup run. However, it was McPhee who got the last laugh when he refused to make a deal with his archnemesis Poile and snatched up the Preds newfound superstar for his Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
Traded: Seth Jones | Acquired: Ryan Johansen
So long to the defenseman of the future
The future of the Predators’ defense seemed bleak after Ryan Suter left. Suddenly, Shea Weber was left without a defensive partner and the strong core that seemed to have been forming on the blue line was in danger. Then, during the 2013 draft, David Poile had a sudden stroke of luck on his side; Seth Jones was still available at fourth. However, by June 2016, the Preds’ priorities changed and strengthening their forwards was now the top priority. After three years of solid success with Jones, Poile felt his blue line was in safe hands with future-captain Roman Josi sliding into Suter’s old spot and traded his one-time highly-touted draft pick for established center Ryan Johansen.
Winner: Draw. Ryan Johansen’s presence at center was one of the boosts the team needed to propel them toward their 2017 Cinderella-story run, but his playoff time got cut short due to emergency surgery. However, Johansen bounced back from that surgery and continues to be a top liner for the Preds, who’ve continued to remain among the NHL’s top teams. On the other end of the trade, Seth Jones slid seamlessly into a top role in Columbus’ blue line, earning an ‘A’ on his jersey and contributing to a first-ever playoff win for the Blue Jackets in 2019.
Traded: David Legwand | Acquired: Calle Järnkrok, Patrick Eaves
Preds send their record-holder packing
David Legwand still holds nearly every Preds record to date: games played, goals, assists, and points. Legwand made his on-ice debut during the Preds’ inaugural season—it was the last game, but it counts. After 16 years, Smashville probably expected Legwand to retire a Pred, but in the middle of a bad season Poile saw his opportunity to flip his fan-favorite veteran for promising youth. Calle Järnkrok was disgruntled in Grand Rapids with a slim chance to crack the lineup in Detroit and the Red Wings’ then-GM Ken Holland was looking to add a little more veteran leadership to his team headed into the playoffs.
Winner: Predators. Though it was sad to see Legwand go, Järnkrok didn’t squander his shot at the big leagues, proving what an asset he could be in his first full NHL season. Järnkrok is still a staple part of the Preds’ lineup three years into his six-year, $12-million deal.
Acquired: Kyle Turris | Traded: Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft
Matt Duchene who?
In 2017, Colorado Avalanche star Matt Duchene asked his childhood idol Joe Sakic for a trade amid growing frustrations with the continuous rebuilding of his once-favorite team. In November of that year, the Avs were finally willing to part ways with their center and David Poile jumped at the chance for a trade with Colorado—but the guitar-playing offensive powerhouse was not the player Poile had in mind for Lower Broad.
In a three-team trade with the Ottawa Senators, Kyle Turris skated into Smashville while young NHLers Sam Girard and Vlad Kamenev headed to the Rockies. Sure, Turris was not Duchene, but his offense was nothing to scoff at. The previous year, Turris nearly led the Sens to the Stanley Cup Finals opposite the Preds and put up a career-high 27 goals. Seems like a no-brainer right?
Winner: Colorado. Sure, trading for a highly-touted offensive player doesn’t seem like a high-risk deal, but when you’re trading your future everything comes with a risk. Turris hasn’t necessarily played poorly, but he also hasn’t lived up to the goal-scoring expected or found a fit on a line. Meanwhile, Girard is finding his footing with an Avs team on the rise.
Traded: P.K. Subban | Acquired: Steven Santini, Jérémy Davies, 2nd round pick in 2019, 2nd round pick in 2020
The salary dump. Goodbye sweet prince.
Who would’ve thought P.K. Subban’s larger-thantlife personality would’ve been a perfect fit for Nashville? Oh, I don’t know, everyone? There’s nothing Nashville loves more than a big personality. Subban was not only one of the top defenders in the league, but also a breath of fresh air for the team. Subban is an NHL All-Star and former Norris Trophy winner still in his prime, but Poile said the salary cap dump was necessary to pursue his goal of “strengthening the forward corps and continued strength of the defensive group.” That is a fancy and polite way of saying, “P.K. was great, but we are going to throw all of our money at Matt Duchene now.” Remember him?
Winner: New Jersey. Taylor Hall, Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and now P.K. Subban. New Jersey is all in on a cup run and Nashville has...money.
When you’ve been the GM of a team for not only 21 years, but its entire existence, your trade list is long and complex. Some great, some O.K., some bad, but mostly there are far too many to list them all and as much as everyone loves to play armchair GM at home, it’s really only the team president Sean Henry that matters.
Which trades did you think were the best, worst, or most shocking? Let us know in the comments.