The Nashville Predators made three major trades during the 2013-2014 season, and they all featured one theme: veterans for younger players.
Beginning with the swap of forward Matt Hendricks for Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk on January 15, the Predators started a trend of getting younger through deals. A week later, Kevin Klein (who spent nine seasons in Nashville) was sent to New York for Rangers blueliner Michael Del Zotto. Finally, in what may be Nashville’s best trade of the season, the club acquired forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Patrick Eaves and a 2014 second-round pick from Detroit for long-time Predators center, David Legwand, in March.
This is the final part of our new series this month. We’ll be looking at the four main areas that defined the Nashville Predators 2013-2014 season. Every Thursday come here for the next part in the series as we “throwback” to the players, moments and events that defined this past campaign. Read part one on the Predators rookies, part two on Pekka Rinne and part three on opposing fans here.
Ultimately, Dubnyk was not the solution in the Predators net while normal starter Pekka Rinne was out with injury, but the other two trades seem to have Nashville on a fresh course at two key positions.
Kevin Klein for Michael Del Zotto:
The swap for Del Zotto on January 22 was a futuristic move to try and shore of the Predators top two defensive pairings. Flipping the 29-year-old Klein for the 23-year-old Del Zotto gave Nashville the second left-handed shot they needed to pair with Seth Jones and another young player to grow with the rookie teenager. Predators General Manager David Poile acknowledged those added attributes shortly after the deal was made.
“Del Zotto gives us another young, gifted, left-handed shooting defenseman with significant upside.” Poile said. “We look forward to his presence on our already talented young blue line, further balancing our defensive corps.”
Shortly after the trade, this is how we summarized a list of pros and cons on the deal:
In the short-term, the Predators have probably taken a step back. It will take time for Del Zotto to learn the Predators system and he hasn’t shown he can handle the role of being the team’s No. 3 or 4 defenseman, yet. But if Del Zotto shows progress over the next few months and earns a reasonable contract extension from Nashville, he could become the left-handed and more offensively gifted D-man the Predators have needed to pair with Seth Jones.
Interestingly enough, not much changed over the remaining months of the regular season to sway the above analysis too much. Both defensemen had decent–but not massive–impact on their new teams, and for parts of the season, Klein and Del Zotto where asked to do less with their new clubs than they were with their former teams.
Poile said earlier this month that a qualifying offer will be extended to the restricted free agent Del Zotto, so the Ontario native will get another chance to solidify his position in the Predators defensive corps next season. With his prime still several years ahead of him though, Del Zotto has a lot more potential and upside than Klein. Taking a step back in an effort to brighten the club’s future long-term makes sense, especially since Nashville was out of a playoff spot at the time of the trade.
David Legwand for Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok and a conditional pick:
On the NHL’s trade deadline day on March 5, the Predators severed as one of the sellers on the league’s busiest day for deals. Shipping off impending unrestricted free agent David Legwand to the Red Wings, Poile’s main return was a forward that would quickly become the club’s top offensive prospect: Calle Jarnkrok.
The 22-year-old Swede flourished with his new organization and contributed nine points in 12 games at the NHL level with the Predators. Showing the very offensive potential Nashville has sought for so many seasons, Jarnkrok delivered more immediately than many people were expecting. Poile has been praised for adding a future top-six forward to his club by giving Detroit a rental player, and the sentiment appears deserved. The GM and the Predators just hope Jarnkrok is still far from his highest point.
After Peter Laviolette was named the head coach of the Predators in May, Poile expressed his hope that Jarnkrok will continue to reach new heights under the coach’s new system.
“Laviolette has a really good track record of developing young players. He’s led a lot of young offensive guys to put up some really impressive offensive numbers. I’m hoping he’ll do the same here,” Poile said. “Jarnkrok played very good for us in that short time here, and he’s got an excellent chance to be a big part of our team next season.”
In a season where they fell short of the playoffs, the Predators smartly traded in veterans moving toward the twilight potion of their careers for younger talent. Infused with new faces and players entering the prime of their careers, Nashville appears primed to compete for several seasons to come.