For all of the flaws that have plagued the Nashville Predators over the past few seasons, depth has not been one of them.
Players such as Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, Colton Sissons, Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Bonino, and Colin Blackwell have played key roles in the bottom six and have made key differences.
This year, however, the third and fourth lines have become an area of concern. Not due to the lack of options, but because there are too many of them.
The free agency acquisitions and the emergence of the youth have created an overflow of depth forwards, and some questionable decisions by Head Coach John Hynes have left fans with many questions about several players’ futures on the team.
Being forced to scratch several NHL caliber players with regularity is not great for any team, and GM David Poile might have some decisions to make in the near future.
Who stays, and who goes?
This evaluation of the bottom six will explain the situation.
The Up and Coming Prospects
Mathieu Olivier, Eeli Tolvanen, and Yakov Trenin are three of the Predators’ best prospects at this time. All of them are starting to get consistent time on the ice, and the former two especially have earned their time in the lineup.
Olivier has made a strong impression with the grit and aggressiveness he has shown, and unfortunately, he was questionably scratched by Hynes in the team’s dramatic victory over the Florida Panthers last night.
Either way, he is an asset moving forward, and the same can be said about Tolvanen, who made his mark with a goal on Monday night in his first game of the season.
Trenin has yet to make any outstanding contributions for the team, but knowing the position he is in, it is extremely unlikely that he gets traded.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to let him play in the AHL for the time being, but he’s someone who Poile would most likely be very hesitant to trade.
The same can be said about the other two forwards.
Potential Future Pieces for Nashville Predators
Rocco Grimaldi and Luke Kunin make up this list of players who could be used moving forward, but also could be shipped out of town.
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They’re not coveted prospects, but their best very well might be ahead of them, which is why they should be kept around for the future.
Scratching Grimaldi for multiple games has been the Predators’ most questionable move of the year, as he is just too talented and too tenacious to be out of the lineup on a nightly basis.
It’s a good thing that Hynes has played him in the past two games, but as painful as it is, I could see Grimaldi being shipped if Hynes decides to scratch him again.
Kunin is another young player who appears to be headed in the right direction, as his shot and ability as a net-front presence bode well for his future.
That said, I don’t think Poile thinks of him as the most un-tradable among these players.
This group consists of Jarnkrok, Erik Haula, Nick Cousins, Brad Richardson, and Colton Sissons.
If Poile is looking to deal some of his depth, this is where he should look.
Most, if not all, of these players have hit their peaks, yet would be intriguing options if certain teams wanted to bolster their rosters in hopes of a deep playoff run.
Haula and Richardson might be the most tradable because of their contracts.
Both of them are on one-year deals this season, and trading for one of them would be an extremely low risk move for any playoff team. And especially with the Predators’ abundance of bottom six centers, it would make sense to deal one of these two before the deadline.
Cousins and Jarnkrok have two years left on their contracts and could get some value on the trade market as well. They are secure through next season, but do carry two of the three biggest cap hits among the bottom six, so Poile’s decision making could go either way here.
Trading Sissons might just be the smartest move due to his anchor of a contract, but it will likely prevent other teams from wanting to acquire him.
It stings to say that because Sissons has done great things for the Predators in the past, but unfortunately he is not living up to the seven-year deal he signed in the 2019 offseason.
Sissons or not, it would be smart for Poile to move one of these five veterans before April 12.
Just Make a Move
Poile needs to be considering right now which one of these ten players he wants to deal, because seeing four of them sit every night is a waste.
They could be converted to meaningful assets, but cannot all be kept on the team for much longer.
It would make the most sense to sacrifice some of the veteran group, but one of the depth forwards has to go regardless.
Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later.