While Mattias Ekholm may be the name that teams are clamoring over right now, whether he’s actually available or not, he isn’t the only Predator that might eventually be on the block. Many, including top analysts Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and Pierre LeBrun of TSN, believe that the Predators are quickly approaching the point of no return this season and will begin to move players shortly. Despite a talented roster on paper, Nashville sits in seventh place in the Central Division with a points percentage of just .400 through 15 games. More than a quarter of the way through their campaign, the Predators face a slim chance of turning it around and making the playoffs, especially in this season’s difficult makeshift format.
While Nashville may not quite be ready to fully blow up their roster, both Friedman and LeBrun agree that impending free agents Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are as good as gone. Both had significant interest on the open market late into this past off-season before deciding on Nashville and that interest should remain. Granlund especially has performed well – he’s arguably Nashville’s second-best forward thus far – and should net a decent return. That may not be the end of the list, though. Veterans Brad Richardson and Luca Sbisa may also hold rental value, while term forwards like Nick Cousins, a disappointment in his first season with Nashville, Rocco Grimaldi, or Calle Jarnkrok could also find themselves on the block. Friedman notes that top-six centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen may be made available, but given their massive contracts and lacking production in the current flat cap climate, interest will likely be slim. Their potential availability is still a sign that the Predators could be considering a major shake-up nonetheless.
- Although they considered moving him this off-season in an effort to open up cap space, Friedman does not believe that Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is still available. The fan favorite has been stellar this season, especially in light of the struggles of “starter” Robin Lehner. While Lehner has battled injury and inconsistency, Fleury has posted a .937 save percentage and 1.56 GAA, and most importantly seven wins through nine starts. He has been a major reason why the Knights are off to such a hot start; a start that likely would have gone the other way had Fleury been moved this off-season leaving the frustrated Lehner as the only experienced goalie on the roster. So while Fleury remains an aging asset on an expensive contract who at least had the appearance of only being a backup moving forward, he has proven himself invaluable to Vegas. With a number of teams troubled in net, including Fleury’s former Pittsburgh Penguins, there is a renewed interest in taking on Fleury’s contract in order to take advantage of his current hot streak, but don’t expect the Golden Knights to give him up this season.
- Following their acquisition of Alex Galchenyuk, Friedman wonders if the Jimmy Vesey experiment has already come to an end in Toronto. The free agent addition has just three points in 16 games despite having been given ample opportunity to produce. Given the Maple Leafs’ tight salary cap situation, even with a pair of players currently on Long-Term Injured Reserve, Toronto has to be measured in every roster decision. Once Wayne Simmonds and Jack Campbell return to health and especially if Galchenyuk has earned a role in the starting lineup by that time, the team likely will not have room to carry Vesey, even at just $900K against the cap. An affordable (to most) impending free agent with size and goal-scoring ability, it seems likely that someone would be willing to give Vesey another shot, especially if they can get him for free on waivers. If the Maple Leafs feel that Vesey will not clear, the countdown may have already begun for the team to make a trade before he is lost for nothing on the waiver wire.