A twist of fate, Yaroslav Askarov is a prime trade candidate for Nashville Predators

On the doorstep of NHL free agency 2024, the Predators future outlook at goalie is getting more clear. Yaroslav Askarov is on the trade block.
Nashville Predators v Montreal Canadiens
Nashville Predators v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

After the Nashville Predators finally announced the long-term extension of Juuse Saros last week, the focus shifted to what happens now with Yaroslav Askarov.

The complex decision always felt like it was one or the other; either commit to an unproven, but talented Askarov or hitch your wagon of the future to Juuse Saros. The Predators chose the proven commodity in Saros, and now are seeking a trade partners for Askarov.

As hard as I'm sure it is for the diehard Askarov fans out ther, and trust me there are a lot of them, this decision makes total sense for the Predators organization. You have to do what you can to flip what was your 11th overall draft pick in the 2020 draft and get an NHL-ready player with a high ceiling.

Preds getting lots of interest in Askarov and are in a power position

According to Elliotte Friedman, the asking price from General Manager Barry Trotz is seeking an NHL starter at a different position from goalie or a high-end prospect. If Trotz can pull off that deal, it could end up being a win for both sides because I still have high regard for Askarov's future.

Askarov is currently No.9 on Frank Seravalli's trade targets board on Daily Faceoff. Reports are that the Predators are active on the backup goalie market, which signals Askarov could be heading back to the AHL if he sticks around in Nashville.

Trotz is in a power position here; he doesn't have to rush to a trade that he doesn't like. It's not ideal for Askarov by any means because I'm sure he wants to be in the NHL sooner rather than later, but Trotz has to ultimately make the best decision for the organization.

If trading Askarov is your top intention, there's really no point that I see of immediately putting him in the backup role to Saros this Fall. Askarov could struggle badly, which is possible considering he only has two career starts in the NHL, and that would damage his trade value.

Any team trading for Askarov is banking on all of the scouting reports who hold him in the highest of regards of eventually becoming a franchise starter. That could take a few years to see that full come to fruition, so the landing spot for Askarov might be an organization who doesn't have an immediate need for him but will in the next few years.

On the other hand, Askarov could shine in his backup role to Saros and increase his value as well. It's more of a gamble though and I lean towards continuing to look for a trade partner now in the offseason. If nothing comes across the desk of Trotz that he likes, then Askarov goes back to the Milwaukee Admirals for the final year of his entry level contract and you hope he keeps building his stock in the right direction.

Askarov could always be a trade candidate as well at the 2025 trade deadline, but the more ideal situation is to unload him this offseason. I'm just not sure how many teams remain out there you want him bad enough to offer Trotz what he really wants.

In 44 games for the Admirals this past season Askarov put up very promising numbers. It was his second season playing in North America and kept his save percentage at .911 and improved his GAA from a 2.69 to a 2.39.

NHL free agency goalie market; who's out there for the Predators to shop for?

The next step in this process is seeing how the goalie market unfolds in free agency. Teams may get increasingly more desperate and interested in upping their offer to Trotz for Askarov. As previously mentioned, Trotz has the power here. He doesn't have to rush a trade. Let the reportedly several interested parties think about it and let free agency shape things up.

Admittedly I'm very underwhelmed by the backup goalie market and the Predators coudl be in for a downgrade from what they were receiving in Kevin Lankinen the past two seasons. So there is that to consider in all of this.

Anthony Stolarz, backup for the Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers, would be an outstanding get for the Predators but it will be difficult to land him. He quietly was the best backup in the NHL with a 2.03 GAA and sizzling .925 save percentage.

Other free agent backup goalie options out there are Laurent Brossoit, Ilya Samsonov, Casey DeSmith and Cam Talbot. And of course Lankinen will be a UFA as well on Monday, and I'm not sure he's sticking around in Nashville for another one-year deal after being Saros' backup for two seasons. I'm sure he's seeking a starter's role somewhere, and he should be.

Of the two possible scenarios of NHL starter or a comparable prospect, I'd much rather see Trotz land an NHL-ready starter that can instantly step in for opening night 2024-25. Preferably on the offensive side of things and a specialist, but the Predators also need upgrades to their defensive corps so it could benefit either way.