With the trade deadline fast approaching, we will be taking a closer look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? As we continue with the Central Division, here is a look at the Nashville Predators.
The core of the Nashville Predators remains unchanged since the team was a Stanley Cup finalist two years ago and are all signed long-term, likely keeping the Predators a contender for years to come. However, the team has shown a willingness to make moves at the deadline each year to maximize their odds of taking home the title during this stretch. Last season, GM David Poile made a whopping seven trades total, six of which came in the month of February, and notably added Kyle Turris and Ryan Hartman to the roster. While it’s doubtful that the team makes a similar number or caliber of deal this time around, expect the Predators to again be busy.
29-18-4, second in the Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$29.88MM in a full-season cap hit, 0/3 used salary cap retention slots, 44/50 contracts per CapFriendly
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2019: NSH 1st, NSH 2nd, FLA 3rd, COL 4th, NSH 4th, NSH 5th, NSH 6th, NSH 7th
2020: NSH 1st, NSH 2nd, NSH 3rd, NSH 4th, NSH 5th, NSH 6th, NSH 7th
More and more often, and specifically this season, it has become easier to identify the likely pieces that a trade deadline buyer is willing to give up to land a veteran player. Trade boards now include just as many young roster players and prospects from contenders as they do the typical rentals from sellers.
This is not the case for the Predators. There are no clear trade chips that Poile and company are actively using to bait teams into making a deal. However, there are plenty of players one could speculate that they will dangle.
Prospect defenseman Dante Fabbro definitely heads up that list. Fabbro, 20, is the junior captain of the Boston University Terriers and is developing into quite the two-way defenseman. Fabbro is on pace for the best offensive season of his collegiate career and looks likely to turn pro this off-season. However, three of the Predators’ famous top-four are all signed long-term, with Roman Josi likely to be extended, and the team has seven defensemen overall under contract for next season already. Fabbro does not have much opportunity to play in the NHL next season in Nashville, but many other teams would be happy to give the recent first-rounder guaranteed minutes as a rookie. Fabbro would undoubtedly be a valued piece on the market. To a lesser extent, so could BU teammate David Farrance and leading AHL defender Frederic Allard, who also lack a clear route to play time in Nashville and thus become expendable.
The Predators also have some intriguing young forwards, including several with NHL experience. The Predators are looking to add a forward or two at the deadline, making some current contributors superfluous. 25-year-olds Miikka Salomaki and Frederick Gaudreau have failed to make the most of ample opportunity this season and are part of why the need up front exists. The pair have combined for just ten points despite playing in the majority of Nashville’s games, but have shown great ability before. Both have another year left at a minimal cap hit, which would make them an even more attractive get for interested teams. Anthony Richard, the Milwaukee Admirals leading scorer, is another young forward who could garner some attention, as could University of Minnesota standout Rem Pitlick.
1) Top-six Winger: Injuries to top-six forwards Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Kyle Turris this season have made it difficult to truly evaluate the Nashville offense. The team is still more than capable of scoring, currently 12th in goals per game, but there’s room for improvement. That includes on paper, as well. Even once everyone is healthy, there still seems to be a gap in talent between Forsberg, Arvidsson, Turris, Ryan Johansen, and the rest of the roster. One of Kevin Fiala, Craig Smith, or the disappointing Ryan Hartman can surely continue to fill a second-line role, but the Predators could use an upgrade to round out the group. More specifically, the team is lacking size and grit up front and could use a power forward if possible. The Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds seems like a perfect fit and has already been linked to the team, while the Carolina Hurricanes’ Micheal Ferland and, if made available, the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider would also be ideal. Outside of bigger wingers, the New York Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello and the Detroit Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist also make sense.
2) Depth Winger: Compared to their stellar defense and goaltending and even compared to their depth down the middle – Johansen, Turris, Colton Sissons, and Nick Bonino – winger is definitely the position of weakness for Nashville. Even if they do acquire a top target to fill a scoring line role, don’t be surprised to see Poile add another piece as well. The veteran GM showed a willingness to use the deadline to land a young forward last season in Hartman and could do the same this year. The last time the Predators bought low on a Washington Capitals forward, it worked out pretty well, making Andre Burakovsky an interesting target. The Vancouver Canucks’ Nikolay Goldobin is another intriguing possibility.