Alexei Emelin’s addition to the Nashville Predators provides more depth for an already strong defense. And, more physicality.
I generally trust Nashville Predators management. GM David Poile has more hits than misses to his credit in recent years. The Predators have been moving in the right direction the last few years in large part due to the shrewdness of the front office. That doesn’t mean I understand every move they make.
The trade with the Vegas Golden Knights bringing former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin to Nashville was one of those moves I didn’t understand. The Predators already have one of the best defenses in the NHL. P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis & Mattias Ekholm have the top two pairings covered. Bringing in a thirty-one year old making $4 million to be in the third pairing seemed a bit odd.
Reason trade made sense
1. Nashville’s defense was plagued by injuries last season. Just when Subban came back from injury, Josi went out. It was part of why it took so long for the Predators to gel last season. Subban has been prone to injury the last few years, so trusting him to be there for 82 games is probably ill-advised.
2. Emelin’s acquisition was a move to set up another trade. The Predators have been interested in acquiring Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche for years now. Joe Sakic‘s asking price for Duchene is high, and it includes a top-four defenseman. Emelin’s presence would theoretically make the loss of Ekholm, Ellis or even Josi easier to swallow.
3. Emelin & Subban are good friends. Which is funny since everybody in the Montreal locker room supposedly hated P.K.. Either way, you can bet that Subban put in a good word for Emelin if anybody asked him.
Everybody expected the Emelin trade to lead to another trade. That hasn’t happened, at least not yet. So what can we expect from Alexei Emelin on the Predators as they’re currently made up?
Not Many Points
Most of Nashville’s defensemen are known for their ability on offense as well. Three of Nashville’s top four scored over thirty-five points last season. Ekholm chipped in with twenty-three. Emelin’s career high is seventeen, set in the 2013-14 season. He’s gotten fewer every season since. Maybe switching to Nashville’s wide-open style will allow for more opportunities, but don’t count on Emelin helping much on the offensive end of the ice.
Emelin’s calling card is hitting people. He would have had the third most penalty minutes if he was on last year’s Predators roster. Austin Watson, Cody McLeod & Emelin on the ice at the same time might fill up the penalty box. Emelin’s physicality did come in handy when he was paired with Subban in Montreal, as he took care of most of the dirty work. Montreal tried putting Emelin on top lines in the past, but he’s a third line bruiser at heart.
Emelin won’t have any problems adjusting to his new line mates. In addition to his work with Subban, Emelin’s also familiar with Yannick Weber from their two seasons together in Montreal. I would expect Emelin to mostly be working with Weber on the third line, with some time with Subban mixed in as well.
Of course, he may still end up in the top four on a regular basis. If there’s one thing we know about David Poile, its that there’s always a chance for a trade.
2017-18 Stat Projections: 2 goals, 10 assists, 75 penalty minutes
One interesting note: Emelin, Matt Irwin, Weber & Anthony Bitetto will all be unrestricted free agents after this season. With defense talent up and down Nashville’s organization, these men will all need to be at their best if they want to return.