Although it's always seemed pretty far-fetched that Nashville Predators General Manager Barry Trotz would trade away his franchise goaltender Juuse Saros, it does seem to be closer than ever to being a possibility.
According to a report from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and TSN Insider Trading, Trotz and the Predators are at least willing to listen to serious offers on Saros. That's a lot different than the tone of "Saros is for sure part of our future" sentiment that we've heard in the past.
Nashville Predators Trading Saros Closer Now than Ever?
I have been brining up this possibility since last summer that the Predators have come up with a long-term gameplan for Saros, and the longer they wait the more they could lose on his trade value.
With Saros heading into his final year of his bargain contract of $5 million per year, he's going to require term and a significant pay increase for the Predators to commit to him. With Yaroslav Askarov being the franchise's goalie prized prospect who is currently pilling up the shutouts and is an AHL All-Star, can you really commit long-term to Saros as well?
Something has to give between these two, and we've known this for a while now. Trotz absolutely has to be listening to trade offers for Saros right now with under two months left before the trade deadline on March 8.
LeBrun does make clear in his reporting that the No.1 objective is still to give Saros a contract extension before the summer, but that the number of teams desperate for goalie help has grown since the start of the season.
Furthermore, serious suitors only need apply to Trotz if you want Saros. In fact, don't even bother with only offering first round draft picks. Trotz wants a bonafide starter with upside if he's going to deal Saros before the 2024 deadline.
""The Predators have no choice but to listen if a team puts in a seroius, serious offer. What I mean by that is don't throw in a couple first round picks which would be in the low 20's for Nashville. That's not going to get Barry Trotz to blink"."- Pierre LeBrun, TSN Insider Trading
In a hypothetical trade offer involving the LA Kings, who are having goalie issues with Cam Talbot and have deep postseason aspirations, LeBrun mention Quinton Byfield being offered in a trade for Saros. A player like that caliber would be what it would take to get Trotz seriously interested.
I love this approach by Trotz of playing the patient game here and letting teams get even more desperate for a goalie as the playoff race heats up. There's no need to rush into anything until the deadline is around two weeks away. Then you really have to put all of the offers you're getting on the table and make your decision.
If the top preference for Trotz is to extend Saros, which by all accounts is the case, then it's going to take an enormous return back to the Predators for this to happen. If you give me an NHL-ready impact player along with a first-round draft pick, you'd be foolish not to take it if your Trotz.
Trotz Needs to Show Patience, He has All the Cards in Negotiations
Right now teams are probably just testing the waters on where Trotz stands. I'm sure the phone will be ringing non stop in the next six-plus weeks leading up to the deadline. It would still be shocking to say the least if Saros actually ends up being dealt by Trotz.
However, if this were to happen, then you begin thinking about re-signing Kevin Lankinen to another contract to play alongside Askarov in 2024-25.
For what it's worth, if Saros was traded by the Predators in the next six weeks and this team is still in a wildcard spot, I don't think that necessarily means they are giving up on this season. Lankinen can be good enough to be the No.1 starter for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs if you make it in.
It does come down to where Trotz sees this team's ceiling being at for this season. Does he realistically think this Predators team without any changes to the roster can go deep into the playoffs? If he doesn't, then trading Saros makes perfect sense.
It's non-negotiable for me; to give up a franchise goalie you have to offer me an impact player in return, along with a first round draft pick. Otherwise, Trotz can wait this out into the offseason for an extension. You can always trade Saros at next year's trade deadline.
If Trotz gets an offer he can't refuse on Saros, he has to take it. You can't manage with your heart, but with your brain in this case. He may not want to trade Saros, but there are some very desperate general managers out there who need a goalie.