There hasn’t been this big of a shift for the Nashville Predators since their Stanley Cup run in 2017, but the youth movement is intriguing to watch.
When things continue to not work, you can’t keep trying the same strategies and hoping something finally goes your way. The Nashville Predators finally seem to be figuring that out.
The news of the Predators trading storied veteran Nick Bonino to the Minnesota Wild for a much younger centerman in Luke Kunin shows me that the GM David Poile is serious when he says “all options are on the table”.
The trade also included the Predators sending their 37th overall pick and 70th overall pick, while receiving Minnesota’s 101st overall pick. The Predators ended up taking defenseman Adam Wilsby with the pick from Minnesota.
Preds getting a rising star?
Kunin has a bright future even if this isn’t a blockbuster acquisition. I can see him evolving into a similar role that Bonino was already serving. A leader in the bottom-six at the center position, but also a player that can still enter the prime of his career at age 22.
I don’t think this was an easy move to make for either side. Bonino was arguably one of the most productive players in his role aside from Roman Josi.
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The Wild added a great player in Bonino, but one who isn’t at the peak of his career anymore. To get him they in return parted ways with their former 15th overall pick from 2016.
Kunin is a restricted free agents and the Predators should get a new deal worked out with him soon. It’ll be interesting to see what the terms end up being.
The last trade between Nashville and Minnesota ended badly for the Predators as Mikael Granlund never found his footing here, so bringing in Kunin hopefully goes much better. He’s not coming in with nearly the same amount of lofty expectations as Granlund was coming in with.
This is a move that you have to like for the Predators at face value. They’re getting more youth into the organization and getting a player that should have his best years ahead of him.
Kunin posted 31 points last season and increased his game appearances from 49 games to 63 games despite the shortened 2019-20 NHL season.
Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin told the Star Tribune that losing Kunin is a tough trade to make, but one that he thinks makes the team better. I’d expect both sides feel similar that it was a business decision, but not one that was easy to make.
Kunin brings leadership traits, a strong defensive game and more scoring punch to the Predators bottom-six next season. It’s too early to tell, but I’m projecting that Kunin fits right in where Bonino was on the third line.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement from Kunin in his overall game, most notably his possession metrics which are below average. But at age 22, this is a low-risk addition and one that could easily end up being a home run when we look back on it.
Kunin has also spent time in the AHL with the Iowa Wild, and on the U.S. Junior National Team where he posted six goals in seven games as a team captain back in 2014-15.
Expect plenty of growing pains next season from the youth of the roster, but at least a new foundation is being built with players like Kunin.