The NHL season is halfway over, and the trade deadline is almost upon us. The Nashville Predators have had such an up and down season that we aren’t sure what GM David Poile may do come April 12.
Up until the past few weeks, it looked like the Predators could be heavy sellers at the trade deadline. They were losing badly, and a playoff spot seemed out of reach. Nashville would win games here and there but could never gain any momentum.
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Then the Predators went on a huge run, winning nine of their last eleven games and securing the fourth playoff spot in the Central Division. Their six-game winning streak, broken by the Dallas Stars, was the longest active winning streak of the season.
All indications now point to Poile possibly not doing anything at the trade deadline, which could hurt the Predators in the long run.
De Facto Youth Movement Should Factor In
Fans were excited during the preseason to hear Poile talking about a “youth movement” for the 2020-21 season. We were finally going to see players like Eeli Tolvanen, Alexandre Carrier, and Yakov Trenin in the lineup.
It wasn’t until injuries plagued the Predators that we got to see some of the younger guys on the roster. The “youth” began making an impact and became one of the driving forces to the Predators’ success.
While we did get our “youth movement” in a sense, it wasn’t part of the season’s primary plan and more like an afterthought due to extenuating circumstances.
Now that we have seen the impact that these younger players have had, Poile must figure them into any equation for next season and beyond, no matter what road he chooses come April 12.
Three Options For The Nashville Predators At The Deadline
Obviously, Poile has three options at the trade deadline. What he may do is anyone’s guess.
The Predators are playing better hockey at this point in the season. If they play nearly perfect the rest of the way, the third playoff spot could be in reach.
However, the Predators have yet to beat the Carolina Hurricanes and have only beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning once. Even with this surge in play, the Predators would likely be bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.
If Poile decides to do nothing at the deadline, we could also see some players walking at the end of the season or one being swallowed up by the Seattle Kraken at the expansion draft, leaving Nashville with nothing in return.
Mikael Granlund is once again a free agent who could leave Nashville for greener pastures. If left unprotected (a huge mistake in my opinion and not likely if he isn’t traded) in the expansion draft, Mattias Ekholm would likely be chosen by Seattle.
The comfort of a winning streak and a run at the Stanley Cup may be too alluring for Poile. At this point, it would not be shocking if Poile did nothing before the deadline.
A massive rebuild once seemed like the only option available to Poile a month ago. The Predators were playing horribly and were close to being in the last place in the standings.
At one point, Poile also said that every player was on the table except for Roman Josi and Pekka Rinne, a sentiment that has cooled as of late.
An extensive rebuild would include trading Ekholm, Calle Jarnkrok, and the rest of the players with one-year contracts and loading up on draft picks, prospects, and potentially other player assets. This would clear a path for a genuine youth movement to take place, putting younger players into the lineup with the remaining veterans.
While this seemed like a great idea when they were losing, this surge in play for the Predators has proven that this drastic move may not be necessary, provided the players can keep up this level of play.
The soft sell option should be the only option on Poile’s mind at the moment. With how the Predators are playing now and with the injured players returning to the lineup, a complete rebuild is unnecessary, but doing nothing shouldn’t be an option either.
A soft sell would require trading Granlund and the other one-year contract guys for picks and prospects. Once completed, the holes left in the roster can be plugged with the younger players, thus ushering in a “mini” youth movement.
Keeping Ekholm would also be a requirement of a soft sell which is by no means a bad thing. The Predators will need his talent and leadership for years to come if they hope to compete for the Stanley Cup.
However, once his contract is up, Ekholm will want a considerable raise. He will also have to be one of the protected players when the expansion draft happens in a few months, which could cause Nashville some headaches.
Nashville will also be giving up any trade value that Ekholm could bring, which is quite a bit at the moment.
The Predators’ season is on the edge of a knife. One decision by Poile could have consequences that may either propel the team to the playoffs or doom them to not making the playoffs at all.
However, this Predators team shows something that fans haven’t seen in a long time, grit and determination. Sure they have lapses and trend backward, but for the most part, they remain on the upswing, even after suffering the recent loss to the Stars.
Poile will probably do nothing on April 12, and that may work out, or it may not. Soft selling some players, gaining some draft picks, and a proper “youth” movement will be the best option for the remainder of this season and beyond.