If there is one thing that Nashville Predators‘ General Manager David Poile has taken lots of heat for over the past few years, it has been trying to compete for a Stanley Cup despite the team being stuck in mediocrity. Recent comments from him show that he might finally be starting to give up on the core, or at least the current season.
Poile recently appeared on ESPN’s 102.5 The Game in Nashville and mentioned that if the team continues on its current path, they are more likely to be sellers at the trade deadline than anything else.
First of all, it is pretty surprising to hear Poile admit this publicly. While the Predators have not always been the heaviest of buyers at the deadline, they are rarely sellers, and I would not think Poile would rip off the band aid at this point when he has committed to competing for so long.
If the team starts to turn it on before March 3, his plans may change, but if he is actually saying this to the media, it means he has at least a move or two in mind.
Expect Nashville Predators to move some players at trade deadline
There is still some time before the deadline, so Poile’s comments as of right now are nothing more than a warning to get things together, or else. But if we are being honest with ourselves, things are unlikely to actually change for the Predators.
We can talk about jet lag, first half of the season struggles, brutally honest team meetings, and any other circumstances that could affect the team on the ice, but at some point the team is just what they are. When we get to February, we have seen just about every team for what they are this season.
The current situation is very likely to drag on for the next few weeks and if indeed that happens, the Predators are going to be moving some pieces.
Most would think that in that case, Dante Fabbro would be among the first out.
The former first round pick has just not progressed like he should be in his fourth full season in the NHL, and with him having the most expensive qualifying offer of the Predators’ several upcoming restricted free agents, I am not even sure they would give it to him if it came down to that.
Jordan Gross is another right-handed defenseman who has flashed offensive strengths in the 10 games he has played in Nashville this year, and the Predators would be just fine if he were playing in Fabbro’s place. There is no reason for them to hang onto Fabbro with the current situation, and I truly do not expect Poile to do so if he is serious about being a seller at the deadline.
While Niederreiter and Lankinen were signed to be short term rentals, Niederreiter seems way more likely to be traded. It is just tough to imagine Lankinen getting dealt because the Predators’ next best option at backup goaltender is Yaroslav Askarov, and they most likely do not want to rush him to an NHL role too quickly, even if it is as a backup.
Sissons, unlike the others, is a longtime member of the Predators core, and even in a business, it is tough to part with guys who are as consistent and reliable as he has been.
On the flip side, Poile could trade him to send a message to the team, and really no matter how you slice it, Sissons has become expendable due to the team’s poor performance, the value he brings on the ice, and the team’s logjam at the center position.
Of the more prominent players on this roster, the ones who most realistically could go are Mattias Ekholm, who has been in some rumors this year, Matt Duchene, and if he did not have a no-trade clause, Ryan McDonagh. Frankly, I would not expect any of these guys to get dealt, as their contracts make it tough and Poile is usually not one to move players like that in the middle of the season.
Mikael Granlund and Ryan Johansen are the two guys who are making a lot of money and are increasingly losing their fit with the Predators, so in a perfect world, they would be dealt along with anyone else Poile wants to ship off.
But Granlund is unlikely to draw much interest right now, and the hard truth is that you are living in a fantasy world if you think the team can trade Johansen without it hurting, if at all.
You also have to consider some of the restricted free agents, given that the Predators are likely to sell at the deadline and likely cannot keep all of them this offseason.
As much as the fans (including myself) would hate this, I would not rule out the possibility of Tanner Jeannot getting flipped to another team, although I think every RFA except for Fabbro will re-sign this offseason.
There is definitely justification to trading Juuse Saros given the haul they would get for him, plus the fact that it is hard to realistically rebuild with him in net.
The Preds Could be Light Sellers
As mentioned, the Nashville Predators are unlikely to show any drastic improvements before the trade deadline rolls around, and consequently are likely to part with some of their players. But I think the most we would see is the precursor to what could be an actual rebuild in the offseason.
Knowing Poile has almost never traded away any important core players during the actual season, do not expect him to start now. Nobody knows just what he is thinking, but he seems likely to approach this situation from the perspective of “let’s start with some smaller moves to see if it sends a message to and motivates the team.”
If they respond well, Poile will probably give the main group yet another shot, despite the backlash that would surely ensue. If they do not pick themselves back up, then we might could actually expect some tough decisions to be made.
But with Poile saying what he said yesterday, the writing is already on the wall, and it is a big deal with how much he has prioritized the win-now approach over rebuilding.