For a moment, Let’s revisit the trade deadline day. Having already acquired Hal Gill, GM David Poile struck with a two part plan sending off draft picks for Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn. We were all excited. It was the right balance of scoring and grit, so we thought. Then more rumblings of Alex Radulov returning to Nashville became more realities. Then, he was on a plane to Nashville. He walked through that door. He showed the whites of his eyes to Barry Trotz. He played and scored in his first game.
But going back to the deadline day, the expectations changed. Either caused by the uncertainty and/or doubt of Ryan Suter’s contract and the future implications of Shea Weber’s contract, the team felt the need to go for it this year. They rolled the dice. I’m not the least bit angry about it. The draft picks surrendered weren’t the high-end picks that Toronto has shipped off. The roster was maintained. Were the players obtained rentals? Likely so. Would they have beaten Detroit without them? Likely not.
Now comes yet another summer of uncertainly. Will Suter return? How about the other UFA’s? Will Weber sign long term deal, or another one year band-aid? Even guys like Colin Wilson are in at least some doubt about next year. This will not be fun. BUT, there is a silver lining to all this chaos. While losing Suter (about 66% likely, being honest) will hurt, the blueprint to the other finalist teams should encourage us.
The forward depth is progressing. Wilson, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque, and further afield Taylor Beck, Michael Latta, Austin Watson… that won’t be the issue that plagues the team moving forward. What will be is defensemen depth of the size variety. While Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Jonathon Blum all skate well, size will be needed to win the battles against the Blues and Blackhawks going forward in this division. The Kings have a top four that gets paid on average $4.2m next year (cap hit), and the smallest guy is 208 lbs. Hell, the Rangers starting six has an average cap hit of under $2 million, and the lowest guy on their list is a very capable Anton Stralman. Phoenix was able to shut Nashville down using all six defensemen (seven if you include David Schlemko), and their average rate of salary was 3.82 million American Dollars for all six starting defensemen. Where is Nashville on this scale? $4.23 million, looking at next year (subtracting Gill and Boullion, adding in Ellis and figuring in a raise for Suter up to $6.5m), it’s up to $4.43 million.
The point is while Ryan Suter may be among the best in the world at what he does, and while I want him to stay, no other cup favorite team is built like Nashville. Depth is key. And while they’re as good as there is while together, Suter and Weber are just men, and two men at that. It takes a defense corps to win. Josi and Ellis are getting there, and Blum will likely bounce back after a rough year. But size is desperately needed. Don’t believe me? Watch the Kings and Rangers slug it out in the cup finals. It’s not about being amazing, one through two; it’s about being solid, one through six.