The Nashville Predators will have to make some decisions soon with the trade deadline fast approaching.
The Predators are holding on to the top Wild Card spot, tied with the Colorado Avalanche but with two games in hand. They are 13 points behind St. Louis for the third spot in the Central so for all intents and purposes are in a battle for the Wild Card right now. Minnesota and Arizona are within four points and Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg are all within 10 points.
With that in mind, the Preds are definitely in a spot where they can’t afford to slump or let up at any point in the final 24 games. The trade deadline is February 29th, only nine days away and David Poile will have to decide in that time if he is willing to give up something to add this team to get them over the hump.
In an article by Adam Vingan of the Tennessean, Poile said this:
"“I think before I go outside the organization, I just think we need to get the consistency that we, unfortunately, have not had all year long,” Poile said. “I truly believe it’s there because we have seen it on occasion, but not regularly enough. We saw it a lot on a consistent basis last year. I truly believe that the best is yet to come for our hockey club.”"
That sounds like a man who has made his big trade with the Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen deal and is willing to let the chemistry and team come together. He has said since the beginning of the season that he believes that this team has what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs.
We still believe that he may do something to add a part to this team. There are a few places that he could help the team without totally mortgaging the future. Some of these have been rumored and some just make sense.
The Predators could still use a big left wing that can go to the net and score some goals while adding grit. One possibility is the signing of Jimmy Vesey who is playing at Harvard and has 18 goals and 35 points in 25 games. He could be a huge help but it remains to be seen when his season will end as Harvard looks like a playoff team. Although there is no guarantee he will sign with the Preds, all things point to that.
A seemingly perfect part would be former Predator Scott Hartnell of the Blue Jackets. The Jackets would probably like to get his salary of $4.75 million for the next three years off of the books as they are within $3 mil of the cap. Hartnell is already 33 years old but can still score with 18 goals and 37 points in 58 games this year. He may not be too expensive and was rumored to come here in the Jones-RyJo deal. Some think him too old but he hasn’t stopped scoring yet.
Andrew Ladd of Winnipeg is another rumor but he would be a rent-a-player as he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers is an RFA at the end of the season and will be looking for a big increase of his $2.6 mil but has a nice upside and plenty of grit.
The best thing would be to see Colin Wilson play up to his potential. The Preds are tied for the second fewest goals by forwards and need a big input from the tandem of Craig Smith who has looked better lately and Wilson. Folks are looking for Wilson on the side of milk cartons as he has disappeared from the offense with only four goals this season.
Third Pair Defenseman
Anthony Bitetto and Petter Granberg have been sharing the spot vacated by Seth Jones and have done an okay if not spectacular job. It seems to work best with Tony Bitetto as that leaves Mattias Ekholm with Ryan Ellis on the second pair and they seem to thrive as a pairing. A solid veteran defenseman could be an improvement but would have to be the right price. Former Pred Dan Hamhuis is supposedly available but might be too pricey. Decent D-Men are always hard to come by.
Pekka Rinne‘s well documented recent struggles have had rumors of James Riemer of Toronto being moved to the Predators. The idea is having a veteran goaltender to push Rinne and get him back where he belongs. However, the way that Carter Hutton has been playing of late should be plenty of push and Pekka has shown flashes of his old self. We don’t think this is a necessary trade or will happen.
The Predators may stand pat. In Vingan’s article, Poile was quoted:
"“If we don’t make any trades this year, I’m comfortable,” Poile said. “We’ve made a big trade. We’ve made a big trade that should have made our team better. And to this point, it hasn’t, but I believe all the ingredients are there within our team to carry us into the playoffs and have success in the playoffs.“But I’ll do my job. I am doing my job in terms of making calls, and if something is there that can improve our team, I will do that, but I’m comfortable with the makeup of our team. I’m just not totally happy with the production that we’re getting on an individual basis and we just need to play a little bit better.”"
Poile has never shied away from making trades that will help the team and he has had more booms than busts. It will be an interesting few days with lots of rumors in the next week and a half to see what happens.