Two Nashville Predators who have been regulars this season – forward Brandon Yip and defenseman Hal Gill – are on injured reserve as of today. Both suffered undisclosed injuries that had them listed as day-to-day before being placed on IR, so there’s no reason to expect that either will be out of the lineup for a particularly long time.
Combine the impending return of Yip and Gill with two waiver-wire pickups in Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk and you have a situation where the Nashville front office is going to find itself running up against the 23-man active roster cap. That means two players are going to need to be moved soon, which itself leaves two questions: who will those players be, and how will they be moved?
None of the traditional top-line forwards or defensemen for Nashville will be leaving unless David Poile swings some sort of highly unexpected trade. But among the bottom portions of the roster there are several candidates to either be placed on waivers or sent to Milwaukee. Here’s an overview, along with some rough odds on who will be moved.
Nashville Predators Players Who Might Be Moved
Hustle-chuk has been nearly invisible this season. He’s on a conditioning assignment in Milwaukee as of yesterday, which means after 14 days the team has to recall him to Nashville or place him on waivers. The only other Nashville player to travel that road this season was Brian McGrattan, who cleared waivers before being traded to the Calgary Flames. It’s pretty hard to imagine Halischuk’s future deviating from that path.
It’s been six games since Jonathon Blum last posted a point, five since he registered a shot on goal. He’s looking like the Jon Blum who was demoted to Milwaukee last season instead of the Jon Blum who was called up in 2010-11. With his window for returning to Milwaukee without having to be placed on waivers drawing to a close, he seems to be the obvious choice for a reassignment to the Admirals when Hal Gill returns.
Victor Bartley is expected to make his NHL debut with Nashville on Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers. He was an AHL All-Star this season with Milwaukee and has a booming slap shot that could prove useful on the power play. Like Butler and Boychuk, he’s going to get a chance to prove himself. But the limited number of roster spots for defensemen put him at more of a competitive disadvantage than those two.
Brandon Yip is a favorite of coach Barry Trotz, but he doesn’t excel in any one area of the game. He’s more of an effort guy, and effort guys can be squeezed out of the picture if the roster begins to get crowded with production guys. It’ll take significant contributions from all the newcomers to force him back on to the waiver wire, though.
BOBBY BUTLER / ZACH BOYCHUK
A “last hired, first fired” mentality could send either of these two out the door. Don’t expect that here unless one of them screws up bad enough to go viral. They were both picked up because they can potentially address the holes in the foundering Nashville offense, and they’re going to be given a chance to do that even after Yip returns.
Rich Clune came in as a waiver acquisition early this season and fought his way into a roster spot. Since then he’s worked hard with his fourth-line minutes, even helping to create some offense in the last few games playing with Craig Smith. He’s obviously doing exactly what the team brass wants from him, and he fills a niche nobody else on the team can really match. Clune isn’t likely to hit the waiver wire again anytime soon unless he does something incredibly stupid.
Ryan Ellis can be sent down to Milwaukee without having to clear waivers, which makes him technically a possibility. But the young blueliner has performed well with the Predators in his first full NHL season. He averages 16:14 TOI, has a +1 rating despite playing on the third pair, and has two goals and four assists. Nashville’s defensive corps isn’t very deep and he’s been showing progress, even if he hasn’t racked up huge point totals on the power play just yet. Don’t count on him going anywhere.
A VETERAN PLAYER
There’s a chance that David Poile could end up making a trade that sends a Nashville Predators veteran elsewhere, but it’s less likely than any of the other options he has available to him right now. This could change before the trade deadline if the team doesn’t improve on its recent form, but for now it looks like a safe bet that nobody outside of the fringe is going to be moved.