Why retaining Juuse Saros makes most sense for Nashville Predators

He'll be very difficult to replace, and the Predators' best path forward is keeping Juuse Saros, not trading him away.
Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five
Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five / Derek Cain/GettyImages

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs drag on, we get closer and closer to the NHL draft and GMs are ready to deal. Barry Trotz has been working the phones and has gained the Nashville Predators a few more draft picks. Some experts are assuming that he's gathering assets to make a deal for Mitch Marner.

Resident ace Chad Minton has already talked about some ways that a Marner trade doesn't make sense. Since then, the Predators have made ample cap space and acquired more draft picks. A trade in that sense has become more plausible.

The kicker is that right now most of the rumors involving Mitch Marner also involve Juuse Saros going back as part of the return. Over at Editor in Leaf it's the very first scenario listed.

Some think the trade might be one for one while others think players like Jeremy Lauzon and Calle Jarnkrok and some draft picks, but none of these trade scenarios account for replacing Juuse Saros.

The system doesn't have an obvious replacement

First off, kudos to the Milwaukee Admirals for making the Western Conference Finals. They're facing off against Coachella Valley. Most likely they'll be starting Troy "Talk To Me Goose" Grosenick and not Yarslov Askarov.

Askarov is the 21-year-old heir apparent to the net who is probably beyond playing in the AHL. He went 26-16-5 in year one and improved to 30-13-1 this season, but lost the net to Grosenick who has outplayed him in the playoffs thus far.

Nobody would question Askarov's readiness for significant NHL minutes. If he's ready to be a primary starter is another question, one where the answer is probably no. Asking a 22-year-old to carry the weight of an NHL playoff team in his first full NHL season isn't a recipe that Head Coach Andrew Brunette and Barry Trotz want to pull out of their book.

Askarov should be the guy, one day. The optimist in me says that Askarov will be the guy sooner rather than later. However if you believe that the Predators are knocking on the door on being a contender then trading Saros and leaving Askarov the net puts the team in a worse position, even with Marner coming back in a blockbuster trade.

Free Agency doesn't have the answer, either

The best prospective free agent goalie might be Ilya Samsonov, who the Maple Leafs are trying to improve off of, or at least find a guy to form a 1A/1B tandem with Joseph Woll. After that, it is a bunch of backup goalie types (of which Kevin Lankinen is probably the best) and Cam Talbot who might still be a starter, but that just depends on which team decides he's still worth paying.

The only goalie on the market with a prayer of being able to do close to what Saros does is Jeremy Swayman. The problem is that he's a restricted free agent. If the Predators want to take a chance and offer sheet him it'll put Boston in a tough spot, but it also might not be a great idea for them either.

Swayman is up for a new contract this year, and his tandem partner Linus Ullmark is up for a new deal after the end of the 2024-2025 season.

Swayman is 25 and played in 12 of the Bruins playoff games this season, while Ullmark is 30 and despite nearly splitting the regular season with Swayman, only appeared in two playoff games, with only one start.

The Bruins are clear that Swayman is getting paid and is the Bruins 1A netminder. Could the Predators lure Ullmark away from them? Maybe, but that would certainly complicate things, unless you're getting freaky with a three-team trade or you have multiple trade dominos going.

Saros staying makes the most sense

Saros is in the last year of his deal, and will likely entertain extension talks with Trotz and the gang upstairs this offseason. At 29-years-old Saros presumably still has plenty of tread on the tires, and an extension along with the idea of a tandem with Saros and Askarov seems tantalizing.

If Askarov overtakes Saros this year (highly unlikely) then an expiring contract Saros is one of the best trade deadline chips you could have. If he doesn't, you have time to bring Askarov along while letting Saros age gracefully and play less than 60 games a year. He's played 195 games in the last three seasons, or 11,366 minutes of hockey.

Goaltending isn't the issue for this team, and it won't be for at least another year. The assets and dollars are best spent in the lineup, and without moving Saros.