Relative to other leagues like the NBA and NFL, the trade deadline in the NHL can be pretty uneventful. Superstars change teams very rarely, and we rarely see insane blockbuster moves. The salary cap plays a big part in that fact, but it can be a letdown for some bases. In the Nashville Predators fanbase, you will be hard-pressed to find someone satisfied with what general manager David Poile did at the deadline. While teams like the Florida Panthers upgraded massively with a player like Claude Giroux to help their odds at winning the Stanley Cup, the Predators addressed mainly their depth on defense.
Most of the deals that the Predators made weren’t very significant. For example, they traded future considerations to the Toronto Maple Leafs for 33-year-old Alex Biega. Biega has played two games in the NHL in 2021-22 and spent most of his time with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. He was most likely acquired as insurance for the Milwaukee Admirals, and if something drastic happens, he could see some NHL time. In 31 games in the AHL, he has seven points (1G, 6A).
They also moved defenseman Frederic Allard to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Brayden Burke. Allard was a solid producer for the Admirals in his time, but unfortunately, he could never get a crack at a full-time roster spot on the Predators. He has only appeared in one NHL game. Burke, 25, has never appeared in an NHL game, and his production in the AHL has been just okay in 2021-22. In 31 games with the Ontario Reign—the Kings AHL affiliate—he has 17 points. His career-high is 52 points in 51 games with the Tucson Roadrunners—the Arizona Coyotes AHL affiliate.
These trades weren’t bad, but they weren’t great. They aren’t going to affect the every night NHL roster. I’d give these trades a C for being perfectly mediocre.
The most significant trade that the Predators made was arguably the worst of the trade deadline from a value standpoint. They traded a 2022 second-round draft pick to the Seattle Kraken for defenseman Jeremy Lauzon.
Lauzon is a big, depth defenseman that can throw his body around and kill penalties, but overall, it’s hard to justify sending anything more than a fourth or fifth-round pick to Ron Francis. He was one of Seattle’s worst defensemen on an excellent defensive team.
If you haven’t noticed him yet, Lauzon sits at the bottom of this particular chart from Evolving-Hockey, and for those wondering, he sits second to last in expected goals above replacement (xGAR).
In 54 games played, Lauzon has six points (1G, 5A) and some not-so-great possession numbers. In Boston, head coach Bruce Cassidy put him on a pair with one of the best two-way defensemen in the league, Charlie McAvoy, and sometimes that can be hard for a guy trying to find his stride in the NHL. He played solid minutes after being drafted by Seattle in the expansion draft. At 24-years-old, averaging almost 18 minutes of ice time on a team that is struggling with goaltending, it can affect a player’s confidence.
It’s important to note that it’s not Lauzon’s fault that he was traded for a second-round draft pick. David Poile deserves blame for giving up highly-coveted draft capital for a below-average defenseman. While I think that Lauzon could be effective somehow, he won’t be worth a second-round pick, especially when Matt Benning comes back from injured reserve. Lauzon is a big body that can kill penalties when he doesn’t take them himself, but he’s not a good enough puck-mover and overall defender to keep his roster spot over Benning.
The value that the Predators spent to help their depth was way off. Justin Braun, a better defensive defenseman and a black hole on offense like Lauzon, went from the Philadelphia Flyers to the New York Rangers for a 2023 third-round pick.
I’d give this trade a D, maybe even a D-minus. The value is way off, and seeing what other teams got for much less (like the Minnesota Wild getting a potential Hall of Fame goaltender and Vezina Trophy winner for the same price), it pours salt in the already gaping wound.
Overall Deadline Grade
The Predators didn’t make many moves of significance this deadline, and that was the best thing to do considering where the team is at this point. They’re in a “competitive rebuild” stage. They’re playing good hockey, players are breaking records, but they’re in a wild card spot. Draft capital is also essential, especially considering the Predators could add some really strong players to an already excellent prospect group to help ensure the franchise’s future. There are plenty of second-round draft picks in the Predators system and on the NHL roster. The biggest one on the roster is Roman Josi. In the system right now, Luke Evangelista is having an incredible season with the London Knights. A fan-favorite second-round draft pick in Milwaukee, Egor Afanasyev, has proven that he will be a useful asset in the future too.
There are always mountains of talent that fall to the second round of the NHL Draft for various reasons. Giving up that high of a pick for a depth defenseman that may not see the ice for very long is not smart asset management, especially when there were better defenseman that went for less. Obviously, everyone hopes Lauzon turns it around and proves his worth because that will help the team, but it’s a bad trade at face value.
The Predators didn’t make many moves that affected the current roster, so judging Poile off of minor league deals doesn’t feel fair. But the one move he did make to affect the current roster was not good. He did what many wanted him to do by not making many moves, but his actions were either mediocre or bad. I would give him a D+ overall.