Just six days before the NHL trade deadline, the Nashville Predators decided to dip their toe in the pond of being sellers on the market by trading Nino Niederreiter to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2024 2nd-Round pick in 2024.
Probably a tough pill to swallow for General Manager David Poile who chose to be rather aggressive in the 2022 offseason, with Niederreiter being one of his more praised addition, including by me.
Niederreiter wasn’t a complete bust for this team. I thought he brought leadership and toughness to the lineup, and did notch 18 goals in 56 games, only trailing Filip Forsberg.
With this first subtraction for the Nashville Predators, is it a sign that they’re finally coming to grips with reality that they’re in need of a serious rebuild, or does Poile have a masterplan? Let’s remember, Poile has been doing this a long time and there could be a method to his madness.
Adam Vingan, Former Predators beat writer for The Athletic and part-time contributor to ESPN 102.5 The Game, brought up a valid point that trading away one of your top goal scorers on a team that struggles to score on a consistent basis certainly sends a message:
Niederreiter, in his last game before the trade in a Predators win over the Sharks, notched two goals in nearly 19 minutes of ice time.
What does this deal mean for the short-term for the Nashville Predators?
Well, the offensive struggles are probably going to continue. Niederreiter may not be a lights out goal scorer, but he has that physical frame that creates zone time on the forecheck and has decent ice vision.
Defensively it’s going to downgrade the Predators as well. Niederreiter is an exceptional two-way veteran player, which is why he pulled in a 2nd-round pick. The penalty kill is going to take a hit most likely.
Without Niederreiter, the Predators are going to have to go even younger, which might be a blessing in disguise honestly. After all, some of the most consistent players on this team have been the younger core, with Cody Glass and Juuso Parssinen ascending to key roles at the center position.
He may very well not be ready and we find out the hard way, but Egor Afanasyev should get the opportunity for his first NHL start if this is the path the Predators are taking and they don’t have a bigger move up their sleeve.
While I realize Afanasyev’s numbers don’t pop out with the Milwaukee Admirals this season, I still hold firm that he’s next in line to get an opportunity. He has now logged 130 games for Milwaukee, had over 100 games combined with the OHL and USHL, and spent some time briefly overseas in the KHL and VHL.
Afanasyev has bounced around a lot. You’re still holding out hope that he becomes at worst a bottom-six winger for you in the next year or two. So I say give him a shot for a couple games leading up to the deadline. Coaches liked his play in training camp has he narrowly missed making the opening night roster at the Global Series.
This is of course predicated on when Forsberg becomes available again. He has been out since February 11 against Philadelphia after taking an awkward hit that left him hitting his head directly on the ice.
If Forsberg is ready to go before the trade deadline, only three games left, then they probably roll with the same lineup and don’t call anyone else up, at least for now.
I’ve seen some calls from the fanbase to call-up the phenom Luke Evangelista, who is leading the Admirals in points with 41 and assists with 32. I would be cautious about this because Evangelista is in his first season in the AHL and is still a very raw player. It would certainly be a bold call-up by Poile.
What Other Moves Could be on the Table?
Dante Fabbro remains a likely trade piece for the Nashville Predators. A link between Fabbro and the Sharks has been heating up from multiples sources out there:
A couple draft picks, maybe even a 1st-round pick, is being floated around as a possible return for Fabbro. However, it could go another direction now that the Predators have freed up cap space to re-sign Fabbro, who is an RFA this offseason.
Piling up the draft picks is a popular strategy for a team realizing it’s time to rebuild, reload, reset, or whatever Poile is calling it these days.
On the downside, Fabbro hasn’t recorded a point in 14 straight games. Is Fabbro just another example of a failure of the John Hynes system around him and another team thinks they can bring out the best in him? We shall see.
Tanner Jeannot is getting a lot of interest to beef up someone’s fourth line, but I can’t come to the belief that the Predators want to part ways with a player that embodies the type of team they want to be. The offer would have to be too lucrative to pass up for Poile.
As you can you see, there’s a lot of different ways this could all go with Niederreiter being the first chip to fall.
Of course, this all hinges also on the actually games in hand before the trade deadline and how the Nashville Predators fair against the Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers.
Poile said it himself, his team is “Day to Day”. Take that for what you will.