Nashville Predators: High Pressure to Deliver Results After Quiet Deadline

Nashville Predators players celebrate a second period goal by center Yakov Trenin (13) past Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators players celebrate a second period goal by center Yakov Trenin (13) past Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s something most of us didn’t see coming, but the Nashville Predators have engaged in the “win now” mode by deciding not to be sellers at the trade deadline, and instead choosing the route of keeping the team intact.

You can’t blame the Predators for this line of thinking considering their recent success over the last month and a half as the team has charged into the playoff picture. They’re one of the hottest, if not the hottest, teams in the NHL right now and they’re putting all of their chips in on this continuing into a postseason berth.

General Manager David Poile has sent a very positive and inspiring message to his team that he believes in them to take this run way past just a playoff appearance. You’re thinking much bigger than that by not moving any pieces out of the lineup and thinking more about the long-term future.

The last thing you want is to disrupt team chemistry in this final stretch, so in that regard this is a refreshing strategy that the Predators have taken as the trade deadline has come and gone.

With that said, the pressure is heightened and criticism will be warranted if the team falls flat and this is all for nothing, instead of getting some valuable pieces through trades to help fuel a rebuild that might still happen.

Nashville Predators have to prove this strategy was the right one

With the exception of the modest move of trading a seventh-round pick and a prospect for veteran blueliner Erik Gudbranson, the Predators chose to stay the course at Monday’s trade deadline.

The prevailing question is how far do the Predators have to go to justify this strategy? Is just making the postseason going to be good enough considering where this team was heading into March?

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There’s the expansion draft coming up as the Predators will likely lose a forward in my opinion. Colton Sissons seems like a probably possibility, as does Calle Jarnkrok.

Then you have to look at the contract extensions that are going to hit the forefront. Filip Forsberg is the major one that I fully expect the Predators to lock in for the long-term future.

Mikael Granlund, who at one time not too long ago I thought for sure was going to be traded, is a player that we’ll have to keep a close eye on if the Predators decide to sign him long-term.

Another key veteran that was thought to be a likely trade piece is Mattias Ekholm, which the team decided was way too valuable to trade away in pursuit of this playoff spot. Contract talks will need to arise soon with Ekholm as he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022-23.

This is a bold strategy that Poile has decided to take by keeping the team together, and in effect worrying about what to do with these aforementioned players after this season concludes.

This tells me clearly that Poile has full confidence in this team’s chances of not only making the playoffs, but hopefully its ability to go deep.

A first-round playoff exit won’t necessarily justify it for me in exchange for missing out on some valuable returns for players like Granlund, Ekholm and even someone like Erik Haula or Brad Richardson.

On the other hand, it’s easy to play Armchair GM in this situation. Poile could end up looking like a genius, like he’s done for most of his front office career, if the Predators charge ahead with this group into the playoffs and upset the likes of a Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes or Florida Panthers.

When you take into account the enormous amount of injuries the Predators have had to deal with, it really is incredible to see the current position they’re in. You’re banking on the youth not showing any regression at the worst time, and also that the goaltending stays hot as well with Juuse Saros.

The Predators aren’t going to be able to keep everyone past this upcoming offseason, clearly. It’s very much an “I’m all in for this current season and we’ll worry about the future once 2020-21 is over for us”.

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There wasn’t much pressure when the Predators were plummeting down towards the bottom of the division with the likes of the Detroit Red Wings. It was easy to think about being sellers and thinking about the future past not just this season, but also past next season.

Now that the team has continued to win, it forced Poile to roll the dice on what they can accomplish if they make the playoffs. And to be fair, that’s still a big “if” with plenty of work left to be done on that front alone.

Again, it’s a strategy you have to respect considering that is the ultimate goal is to win now.  But dare I say the Predators get obliterated in the first round, or even worse stumble down the stretch and miss the playoffs anyway, then this will prove to be a move that possibly mortgaged the team’s future.