Leading up to the NHL Entry Draft and the start of free agency, Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile has been very clear about his efforts to fill his team’s biggest void.
On Tuesday, the club’s GM repeatedly stated what he thinks his team needs the most: a top six forward. Poile explained that the Predators are strong in goal and on the blue line, but whether through a trade or by signing a free agent, he wants to bring more offense to his club.
“I think we’re potentially very good in a lot of areas, but I want to remain open-minded,” Poile said. “If a top-six player becomes available, then I have to try and get him. That’s our biggest need.”
The Predators have missed the postseason their last two campaigns, and according to Poile (and many of his players) a lack of goal scoring has been the biggest shortcoming to blame. Nashville finished 19th in goals for during the 2013-2014 campaign, an improvement over the 29th-placed finished they had the season before, but the club’s makeup still wasn’t the right mix of grit and skill.
Now with more fine-tuning recently completed on the defensive side of his roster (including re-signing backup goaltender Carter Hutton this month), Poile says the main thing standing between the Predators and the playoffs is another weapon on one of their top two forward lines, and he’s willing to part with the No. 11 pick if that gets him the elusive prize.
“There is always the possibility that I would trade the first round pick, I’ve made that open to some people that I have talked with. This would be for a top forward, if we could do that,” Poile said. “I’m not predicting that will happen, I’m just saying that if somebody had that top-six forward, I would certainly consider trading our first-round pick.”
But identifying the problem is only the first step. There’s a reason why the Predators have been in search of more offense in their lineup for so long: high demand and low supply. With fewer quality options at forward in both the draft and free agency than in recent years, it’s quite possible Nashville doesn’t end up with their most coveted prize. That’s why Poile has a backup plan.
After all, the Predators already made one key offseason acquisition when they hired the offensive-minded Peter Laviolette to be the franchise’s second-ever head coach.
“If we’re talking about our forwards specifically, we have two or three forwards for sure that haven’t played to their potential that I believe can play a lot better. Whether it’s one more year of experience, a little bit more maturity, conditioning, confidence, whether it’s the coaching change–I think whatever I do or don’t do–it’ll be in relationship to the coaching change,” said Poile. “Peter is very interested in working with some of these players, specifically the guys that have had off years.”
Two of the forwards in the previously mentioned group that Poile eventually called out by name were 24-year-old Colin Wilson and Viktor Stalberg, who is entering the second season of a four-year contract he signed with Nashville last summer.
“Colin Wilson is a young player that we drafted as a center, we’ve used primarily as a left wing, we move him back to center at the end of the year. When we have our meetings and we say, ‘what do we need?’ Our scouts say we need a six-foot, 220-pound center. Well, we have one. We just need Colin Wilson to play up to his level of abilities and to his potential,” Poile explained.
In regards to Stalberg, the Predators GM mentioned he would be interested in a player with similar characteristics as the Swede if he hadn’t just tried to fix that problem last July by inking Stalberg. Poile said he simply wants the forward to play up to the level he knows he can. In his first year with the Predators, the 28-year-old tallied eight goals in 70 games (less than the number he scored in only 47 contests the prior season).
Whether he gets the contributions of a top-six forward through acquisition or by one his current players having a bounce-back season, Poile just knows what he wants.
“I want that goal scorer in our top six,” Poile said. “If we get one—whether it be through free agency or through a trade—we’ll make the proper adjustments. I mean, if that knocks someone else out, then it’s as simple as that.”