On last week’s NHL trade deadline day, the Nashville Predators were sellers for the second-straight season.
Predators general manager David Poile dealt two players on March 8th: veteran forward David Legwand and goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Turning the players on soon-to-be expiring contracts into picks and prospects is likely the right move for a Nashville team that’s a decent distance back of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
But what about in years past? Has being a buyer or a seller benefited Nashville more? Let’s look at the last few deadline days for help.
Year & Record: 2014; 26-26-10 (62 pts)
Adds: Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok, conditional 3rd-round pick and future considerations
Subtractions: David Legwand, Devan Dubnyk
Analysis: At a stalemate in contract-extension negotiations, the Predators GM flipped David Legwand for a bottom-six forward (Eaves), arguably the top prospect in the Detroit Red Wings system (Jarnkrok) and a third-round draft pick (that is upgraded to a second rounder if Detroit makes the playoffs). In the other move of the day, Devan Dubnyk was shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for future considerations. Also an unrestricted free agent after the season, Dubnyk had given up 10 goals in two starts with Nashville and didn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans. Nineteen-year-old forward Calle Jarnkrok (a 2012 second-round pick) is the crux of deciding whether 2014’s deadline deals ended in Nashville’s favor or not. If Jarnkrok fills out his frame and improves upon the natural scoring ability he already has, the Predators have acquired a talented, top-line winger that will make an impact on the team’s offense for years to come. For a team lacking a versatile scorer in their lineup, taking a chance on Jarnkrok seems to be the right move. Legwand never developed into the prolific scorer Nashville had hoped he would become anyway.
Year & Record: 2013; 15-14-8 (38 pts)
Adds: Filip Forsberg, conditional 7th-round pick
Subtractions: Martin Erat, Michael Latta, Scott Hannan
Analysis: Similar to the Dubnyk deal this year, swapping Scott Hannan for a conditional seventh-round pick (upgraded to a 6th rounder if Hannan played for San Jose in the playoffs) was a relatively easy decision to make for Nashville. Often the Predators seventh defensemen on the depth chart, Hannan was sent to the San Jose Sharks just months before his one-year contract with Nashville was set to expire. In what remains one of the most talked about trades in recent memory for the Predators, the club acquired 19-year-old, first-round pick Filip Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for forwards Martin Erat and Michael Latta. The Predators organization used a lot of the same reasoning in their execution of this trade as they did in the swap for Jarnkrok. Forsberg, a former teammate of Jarkrok’s on a Swedish Junior National squad, was briefly the pride of the Capitals farm system and considered to be their most talented scorer in the minor leagues. With Erat wanting to play for a Stanley Cup contender (and out of Nashville), Poile was able to change a two-way forward over 30 into the organization’s brightest chance in years at having a superstar forward. The last two years at the deadline have represented a movement away from some of the defensive ideology adopted by Nashville on day one. Recognizing that the club struggles for some reason to develop elite scorers at forward, the Predators have slowly been swapping out their proven two-way forwards for younger, more offensively gifted players.
Year & Record: 2012; 36-19-7 (79 pts)
Adds: Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad, 4th-round pick
Subtractions: 1st-round pick, 2nd-round pick
Analysis: Pushing for the Stanley Cup in early 2012, the Predators bought high on the NHL’s last day of trades. The club acquired forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad from the Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres, respectively. Nashville brought in a top-six forward and a faceoff specialist while causing their 2012 draft options to take a serious hit. The forwards brought eight goals across 40 games to Nashville’s lineup and despite Andrei Kostitsyn’s “bright-ish” moments, the club fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Coyotes. Faceoff-ace Paul Gaustad would ink a four-year deal with Nashville after the 2012 season, but an unwelcome Kostitsyn left the NHL to play in Belarus. While Gaustad’s offensive contributions are somewhat minimal, the six-foot-five forward has ranked near the top of the league in faceoff winning percentage the last couple seasons. Sacrificing the first two picks in a draft for two non-superstar forwards is a steep price to pay, however. With the Predators falling well short of the Cup that season and only receiving a short-term contribution from Kostitsyn, the whole desire to be a buyer has to be questioned in that year and beyond.
It may be a long-standing tradition to be a buyer whenever possible at the trade deadline, but that alone is not enough reason to pay premium prices for usually minimal help over the remaining games of a season. Case and point, the Predators have been forced to take two years to recoup what they could have had in one draft: Forsberg (1st round), Jarnkrock (2nd round), all for two players that fell way short of pushing Nashville over the top. Set back two years in progression as a franchise for a single (and debately realistic) shot a going deeper in the playoffs is a tough pill to swallow. Seeing the prices that have to be paid by buyers to acquire talent at the deadline, it seems reasonable to argue that either selling of keeping the status quo on the final day for deals makes the most sense.