Nashville Predators general manager David Poile spent most of the early part of this season without making a move, save for the addition of Rich Clune off the waiver wire. But with the team now slumping, he’s taken action by adding a few more players off the wire.
Zach Boychuk and Bobby Butler are both players who excelled at lower levels of hockey but are unproven in the NHL. Boychuk, a former first-round pick for the Carolina Hurricanes, averaged almost exactly one point per game between his four seasons with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and four more with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Butler, a former finalist for the NCAA’s Hobey Baker Award, averaged .79 points/game in his four years at the University of New Hampshire and put up 21 points in 36 games for the Ottawa Senators in 2011.
The potential hidden upside to both Boychuk and Butler is that if either one plays well enough to stick, he’ll be very easy to re-sign. Both players are in the final year of cheap deals – $625,000 for Boychuk and $525,000 for Butler. Each will become a restricted free agents at the end of the year so a qualifying offer to keep either one’s rights would only require a 10 percent salary increase. If either proves to be particularly valuable in the home stretch this season, even a one- or two-year contract with a significant pay jump to somewhere around $1-to-1.3 million would still be a bargain.
Zach Boychuk and Bobby Butler are pretty much the lowest-risk gambles David Poile can take right now. That’s a good thing since the pantry was left a little bare after he pulled out all the stops last year and the team came up short in the Western Conference Semifinal. Making a major acquisition really isn’t a possibility right now without giving up a solid young player with a lot of potential. If one of these low-risk gambles pays off, Poile will be able to reap the benefits of a trade-deadline purchase without any of the downsides – not just for this season but for the next few as well.