The IIHF World Championship gets underway in just a few weeks and USA Hockey has announced the first group of players that will be suiting up for them. GM Chris Drury released 17 names that will be taking part, including captain Patrick Kane. The group is an impressive list of NHL stars that could very well bring home the country’s first gold medal at the tournament in nearly 60 years. The roster so far is as follows:
The New York Rangers wrapped up their regular season Saturday and began cleaning out their lockers, but after a season in which the team finished in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division with a 32-36-14 season, general manager Jeff Gorton admitted that while he likes what he sees in terms of the team developing under head coach David Quinn, he expects to see changes.
NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports that Gorton said the Rangers will likely look to add through free agency this summer to speed up their rebuilding project that the team started last season in February when they decided to make changes to the team.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen this summer to speed that up,” Gorton said. “I think we will try to do everything we can to advance it.”
One obvious possibility would be for the Rangers to try to persuade free agent Artemi Panarin to come to New York. The star winger has been rumored to be interested in signing a free-agent contract with either the Rangers or Florida Panthers, although the Panthers likelihood of bringing Panarin to Florida may have improved if they can sign his former head coach Joel Quenneville to a contract. Regardless, the Rangers could be in play for a number of intriguing free agents, including center Matt Duchene.
- In the same press conference, Gorton added that the Rangers are doing everything possible to get their two top prospects signed, including 2018 first-rounder Vitali Kravtsov and goaltender Igor Shestyorkin. Kravtsov played 50 games in the KHL, posting eight goals as an 18-year-old, but the team must wait until his contract expires at the end of the month. Shestorkin has dominated the KHL for a number of years now, putting up an unreal 1.11 GAA and a .953 save percentage.
- The Rangers also announced that forward Jesper Fast undewent thumb surgery and is expected to be ready to train in six weeks. Fast had surgery last Monday to repair torn ligaments and a fracture in his left thumb. The injury, which Fast sustained near the all-star break, didn’t heal properly, which then required surgery. The 27-year-old had eight goals and 20 points in 66 games.
- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist also spoke about his disappointing season, according to Rosen. The veteran goaltender had a strong first half, but struggled mightily after that. He played in 35 games before the all-star break, winning 15 games, a 3.o1 GAA and a .908 save percentage, but that number dropped to just 17 appearances after the all-star break where he had just three victories with a 3.18 GAA and a .904 save percentage. Lundqvist said he felt really good when he was hoping the Rangers would surprise people, but admitted it was tougher when he knew they weren’t.
- The Rangers announced that forward Chris Kreider will play for Team USA at the World Championships this summer. Rosen reports that Kreider hopes that he and the Rangers can iron out a long-term extension this summer as he is eligible to sign an extension on July 1 as he will be in the last year of his contract. Gorton also had a comment on the situation, “Chris is a goal scorer and they’re hard to find. We’ll figure out what’s the appropriate way to go here in the coming weeks.”
The New York Rangers won’t be making it to the playoffs this season, so there won’t be enough time for Jesper Fast to return from injury. Head coach David Quinn told reporters today that Fast will miss the rest of the year, while Marc Staal and Chris Kreider will miss tonight’s game as well.
Fast, 27, will end this season with just 20 points in 66 games, a disappointing year for a player who had reached new highs in 2017-18. The two-way forward is still an effective option for the Rangers, but hasn’t shown much upside and will be an interesting player to watch this summer. Heading into the final season of his current contract and carrying a $1.85MM cap hit, he could be another player on the move as the Rangers continue their rebuild. That said, he has long been regarded as one of the hardest working players on the team and is routinely praised by teammates and the coaching staff, even winning New York’s “Players’ Player” award for the last four years.
With so much turnover on the roster of late, perhaps the team will want to keep Fast around on another multi-year contract to help guide the young core. With offensive players coming through the pipeline, his defense and versatility can still be quite useful.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have gone on a 2-5-3 run over their last ten games and are now sitting in 27th place in the NHL. It seems unlikely they’ll fall any lower than that and improve their draft lottery chances, but any success could see them skyrocket up the standings. They take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.
No one really knows what the plans are of general manager Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers. The team could continue quietly rebuilding this summer or accelerate that process and bring in a big-name free-agent or two. Regardless, many of the team’s decisions will depend on what their overall plans are.
That will certainly be the case in how the Rangers intend to deal restricted free agent Pavel Buchnevich. While the 23-year-old hasn’t been as impressive this season as last point-wise, Buchnevich has scored a career-high 18 goals and with his entry-level contract ending, is in line for a significant raise. With quality restricted free agents getting more and more money on their next contracts, Buchnevich could be an interesting case.
The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman (subscription required) writes that much will have to do with the Rangers’ plans. If the team intends to make a significant splash in free agency, going after an Artemi Panarin-type of player, the team might be better served locking him up to a long-term extension to keep his salary down. However, if the team intends to quietly go one more year into its rebuild, then the team would have ample cap room to sign him to a shorter-term contract until they know what they have in him.
- The Rangers announced that forward Chris Kreider will be out Monday and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He has been out since Tuesday. Kreider has been a key asset to the team’s offense as he has 26 goals this season.
- The Boston Bruins received some good news as the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter reports that Marcus Johansson, who has been out of the lineup since Mar. 5 with a lung contusion after colliding with Carolina’s Micheal Ferland, is back on the ice. He is in a gold non-contact sweater, suggesting that he hasn’t been cleared for contact. The 28-year-old was acquired by the Bruins in a trade deadline acquisition, but has appeared in just four games for Boston, registering only an assist. Porter also notes that Torey Krug is also wearing a non-contact jersey at practice today. Krug has been out since Mar. 12 with a concussion.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs caught a break after John Tavares took a tough cross-check from the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal, as the star center was at practice today, according to TSN’s Kristen Shilton. The Maple Leafs have lost five of their last seven after falling in overtime to the struggling Rangers.
It’s not very often that a team decides to dismantle their team quite as thoroughly and openly as the New York Rangers have over the past year. Starting with a letter to their fans in early February 2018, the Rangers’ front office explained that they did not believe the roster as then constructed was going to bring any realistic success or a chance at a Stanley Cup. Just a few weeks later the team began selling off their biggest assets, dealing Nick Holden, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller in the span of just a few days. After that kind of a deadline, it was obvious that the Rangers wouldn’t stop there.
This season’s deadline brought much of the same, as New York jettisoned Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Adam McQuaid for almost entirely future assets. One name that was brought up repeatedly but never moved however was power forward Chris Kreider. Kreider represents the last member of the former core with an expiring contract, as his deal is up following the 2019-20 season, and now sits as the biggest decision the team must make this summer. The talented winger will turn 28 in April, and could be an extension candidate if the team believes he can help them get back to the playoffs with their rebuilt lineup. He could also be their biggest trade chip at the draft if they want to take another step backwards to build the prospect cupboard up. In fact, Larry Brooks of the New York Post writes that there is “not even the slightest chance” that Kreider will report to Rangers training camp in the fall without an extension, implying he would be traded without one.
That decision will come after a potentially career-best season from Kreider, even if it has come with some ups and downs. The 6’3″ forward is just two goals and four points from his previous highs, both set in 2016-17 on a team that finished with 102 points and made it to the second round. There would certainly be a lot of teams lining up for his services if available, given his 30-goal potential and all-around effectiveness. Hayes, for instance (who admittedly is a center) has never scored 50 points in a season but landed the Rangers a good young player and first-round pick even as a pure rental. The fact that they potentially could get more than that for Kreider with a bigger market may be too much to pass up.
But at some point, the team will have to decide if they’re ready to compete again. A multi-year extension for Kreider, expensive as it may be, may help the team do just that in the next few years when young players like Brett Howden, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil are still on their entry-level deals. There’s plenty of talent in the system now for New York, and it may be time to start retaining it instead of cashing it in.
For now, Kreider and the team will focus on finishing out the season strong and without injury—something the forward has battled for much of the season, according to Brooks—while developing their young players at the highest level. But come this summer there will be a point where GM Jeff Gorton and his staff will have to decide when the next phase of the plan is scheduled for, and if Kreider is a part of it.
Some bad news on one player could turn out to be a blessing in disguise in regards to another. The Philadelphia Flyers have announced that rookie sensation Carter Hart will be out at least ten days with a lower-body injury. Hart has been playing phenomenally this season and his absence could end what little hope the Flyers had of reaching the postseason this year. However, it will force the team to start Brian Elliott tonight in their Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philly’s final game before the deadline. Recent acquisition Cam Talbot is still new to the team and unable to jump in net just yet. However, Talbot’s presence makes Elliott expendable and the Flyers are known to be shopping him. The team tried to move Elliott to the Edmonton Oilers as part of the Talbot return, but ended up trading away the younger Anthony Stolarz. However, with playoff-bound teams like the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights in need of reinforcements in net, Elliott is very much still in play. A strong performance on a grand stage tonight could be enough to convince those kicking the tires to take a shot on Elliott. Moreso, the injury news on Hart could be the final straw for new GM Chuck Fletcher, as he is still allegedly unsure of whether to sell or not at the deadline. With Elliott, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl, and several others drawing interest, Fletcher should be more encouraged to part with those pieces now that his stud goaltender is out for what could be weeks.
- The New York Rangers are one of the most talked-about teams as the deadline approaches, as rentals Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, and Adam McQuaid and even term players like Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are drawing considerable interest. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks writes that the Nashville Predators are one of the teams in talks with the Rangers, but it appears that one of their best assets may be off the table. Brooks reports that the Predators will not trade 2017 first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen for a rental this season. Nashville does not have interest in Hayes, but has looked into Zuccarello, however they won’t offer up Tolvanen to land him. Brooks believes Tolvanen would only be available to the Rangers in a deal for Kreider. The talented Finnish forward has only seen limited NHL action thus far, but is still coveted by sellers – not only the Rangers – for his potential. In this scenario, it’s the sellers who may have to ante up with a signed player to get the prized prospect. As for the Rangers, they may have better luck getting a top return for Zuccarello elsewhere. Brooks states that the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins are among the teams pursuing the veteran winger, while a report yesterday stated some contenders are willing to pay the price to package Zucarello and Hayes together.
- Meanwhile, the price for McQuaid has gone up significantly today following the trade of Ben Lovejoy to the Dallas Stars. McQuaid is arguably the top rental defenseman left on the market, currently ranked No. 21 overall on TSN’s Trade Bait List. With the trade statuses of Alex Edler, Niklas Kronwall, Cody Ceci, and others still unclear, McQuaid looks like the top target for defense-needy teams versus the likes of Michael Del Zotto and Bogdan Kiselevich. McQuaid is by no means a star or season-changing acquisition, but he is likely the best available defenseman even as just a physical, stay-at-home defender. If the New Jersey Devils can draw a third-round pick and young roster player for Lovejoy, the Rangers are suddenly looking at second-round territory with McQuaid. To protect their top trade assets, New York will not play McQuaid, Zuccarello, or Hayes today, reports Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
- Many have felt that the allure of the free agent market for Matt Duchene and Mark Stone and the caliber of return the Ottawa Senators could get for trading them left Ryan Dzingel as the most likely of the trio to re-sign with the team. That certainly isn’t going to be the case. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that Dzingel recently turned down a five-year extension offer worth more than $20MM, a significant pay raise over his current $1.8MM cap hit. After that, the team made the definitive decision to trade him before the deadline. Garrioch adds that Stone also rejected the Senators’ last offer, and eight-year pact of unknown value, but the team has not yet completely closed the door on a new deal. They continue to take offers on the star winger though, as Garrioch writes that the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning are the team’s most involved in Stone talks. He believes the Bruins are also interested in Dzingel. It remains to be seen who ends up with Stone or Dzingel and how the returns compare to that of Duchene, but one way or another the Senators are walking away from the deadline with a complete lack of star power on the roster, but a massive influx of picks and prospects to show for it.
After sending out a letter, telling fans that the team intends to rebuild last February, the New York Rangers rebuilding project is well underway, but The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman (subscription required) writes that there is one problem the team has — they aren’t losing enough.
One key aspect of a rebuilding team is to pick up top prospects and the best way to do that is through the entry draft. However, with the team’s 21-20-7 record this season under new head coach David Quinn, their 49 points would give them the 22nd best record in the league, which would not give them a chance at super prospects Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko next season. While there is never a guarantee to picking up a top pick due to the draft lottery, had the team just five points fewer, 44 points would have put them 30th.
Of course, if New York trades off more players at the deadline such as Kevin Hayes or Chris Kreider, the team may continue to drop in the standings and improve their chances at a top pick. However, it could have a negative effect on the team’s environment that Quinn has developed this season.
- Andrew Gross of Newsday writes that despite the layoff, neither defenseman Thomas Hickey and winger Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders have a timetable to return and remain on injured reserve. Hickey, who has been out with an upper-body injury since Dec. 17, could be out for some time as head coach Barry Trotz said the defenseman will need four or five practices before being able to play, which could mean he may not be back into the lineup until mid to late February. Ladd, who has been out with a lower-body injury and has been out since Nov. 15, and also may not be back until late February.
- NJ.com’s Chris Ryan analyzes the New Jersey Devils’ roster, looking at what players should stay and go and while even a few months ago, goaltender Keith Kinkaid was considered to be a key piece to the Devils’ success after proving last year that he can handle the full-time job well, it’s likely time to move on from the 29-year-old, who has struggled quite a bit of late. Kinkaid, who is in the final year of a two-year, $2.5MM deal he signed in 2017, has struggled this year with a 13-14-6 record, a 3.10 GAA and a .899 save percentage. Throw in the fact that MacKenzie Blackwood looks like the team’s long-term starter and the fact that the team can’t move Cory Schneider due to his lengthy and expensive contract and Kinkaid is likely to be looking for a new team this summer.
- The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (subscription required) answers mailbag questions, pointing out that the Philadelphia Flyers are likely to bring up more prospects over the next several months. The team will likely recall defenseman Philippe Myers at some point this season. O’Connor writes that Myers has been playing impressive hockey with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL for the past two months and looks to be a player ready to take over a spot on Philadelphia’s defense next season. To ensure that, the Flyers will need to bring him up and give him some playing time this season.
Several sources have reported that New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider could be available ahead of the trade deadline this season, and while they’re not wrong, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that it will take a “perfect deal” for the Rangers to give him up. Brooks writes that Kreider, the team’s leading goal scorer, is too valuable to give up while term remains on his contract. The big winger is signed through next season at a below-market $4.625 and the rebuilding club needs to take advantage of that while they can. Brooks goes so far as to state the team would prefer to re-sign the 27-year-old long-term if possible. So what would it take for them to deviate from those plans? Brooks believes the Rangers would ask for a young roster forward with similar offensive upside as a starting point or else an elite prospect. He even names players like Cale Makar, Martin Necas, Ryan Donato, Troy Terry, Eeli Tolvanen, and Cody Glass as preferred targets, all of whom are among the best pro-ready prospects in hockey. That’s a high asking price for a player of Kreider’s caliber and makes it seem as if the power forward isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
- It seems that the Detroit Red Wings’ Andreas Athanasiou is finally off of the trade block. After two years of rumors about the young forward’s availability, TSN’s Darren Dreger stated on WGR 550 in Buffalo yesterday that it appears the Red Wings are no longer willing to move Athanasiou. While Detroit continues to struggle in the standings, they have made some strides in their rebuild this season with more young players taking on larger roles. Athanasiou has been one of those key youngsters, currently second in goals and third in points for the team and on pace to break his career-high in scoring within the next few games. With the 24-year-old finally meeting expectations and signed to a reasonable $3MM salary for another year, the cap-strapped Red Wings have many reasons to hold on to Athanasiou.
- The Athletic’s Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun, and Craig Custance spent some time discussing the trade deadline status of the Carolina Hurricanes on the latest “Two-Man Advantage” podcast. The trio all agreed that there is a large market for forward Micheal Ferland right now and the power forward is nearly a lock to be dealt by the trade deadline. However, the more intriguing deadline story line in Raleigh is who among the defensemen are moved. As a bubble team, Carolina could be both a buyer and/or seller in the rental market, but are likely more focused on the long term with hockey trades. It has already been reported that the Hurricanes are willing to move one of their six impressive starters – all of whom are signed through at least next season – in exchange for forward help. However, Custance adds another reason why the team might need to move a blue liner sooner rather than later. He believes that Carolina’s best chance to sign impressive collegiate defenseman Adam Fox, the oft-forgotten third piece received from the Calgary Flames, is to sign him immediately following the end of his season at Harvard University and let him play down the stretch and possibly in the postseason this year. To do that, the Hurricanes would need to thin their current defensive group to allow for Fox to play meaningful minutes. All signs point to a defender being on the move out of Carolina. The only question now is which one.
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 Minnesota Wild.
First-year GM Paul Fenton said it himself today that the Wild “can’t trade draft picks” this year due to their lack of depth in the pipeline. Yet, did they not just trade a fifth-round pick for defenseman Brad Hunt a few days ago? Fenton’s message is clear that the team is worried about their lack of youth on the NHL roster and few elite prospects in the system. He surely does not intend for Minnesota to be a “buyer” in the traditional sense this year. However, there is no reason to think that all of the Wild’s draft picks and prospects are off the table.
Minnesota has quietly won eight of their past twelve games and, while the myriad other teams competing for the final spot in the Central Division or a wild card berth continue to struggle to make up ground, the Wild have pulled away with a three-point lead over the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. There are still many games left, but Minnesota is starting to differentiate themselves as a legitimate playoff team. With that status comes a need to strengthen the roster and address problem areas – especially the 24th-ranked offense – to make the most of a postseason opportunity. Perhaps Fenton and company can succeed in those goals with pure hockey trades, but odds are the team will warm up to moving more late picks or middling prospects if that’s what it takes.
26-21-3, third in the Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$11.87MM of full-season cap hit, 0/3 used salary cap retention slots, 47/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2019: MIN 1st, MIN 2nd, MIN 3rd, MIN or WAS 5th*, MIN 6th, MIN 7th
2020: MIN 1st, MIN 2nd, MIN 3rd, MIN 4th, MIN 5th, MIN 6th, MIN 7th
* – Wild owe the Vegas Golden Knights the better of their two 2019 fifth-round picks in return for Brad Hunt
If you believe what Fenton says, then the Wild will be unwilling to move their best trade capital this deadline season. While he namely is talking about high draft picks, that likely also includes top prospects like forwards Kirill Kaprizov, Luke Kunin, and Ivan Lodnia, defenseman Filip Johansson, and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. The recent emergence of Jordan Greenway at the NHL level also makes him untouchable. If a team is looking to land a top young player for their rental at the deadline, they likely won’t find one from Minnesota.
However, Fenton’s willingness to make hockey trades – one-for-one player swaps – opens up many other possibilities. 26-year-old forward Charlie Coyle has long been a fixture on the trade block and this could be the year that the Wild finally move the two-way contributor and his team-friendly contract. The other roster forward that could garner considerable attention is 22-year-old Joel Eriksson Ek, who just can’t seem to find his way at the NHL level and could use a change of scenery. With defenseman Mathew Dumba potentially sidelined for the season, Minnesota would be hard-pressed to remain a factor in the Western Conference playoff race while also trading away any of their blue line regulars. However, AHLers Louie Belpedio and Carson Soucy could be intriguing options for rebuilding teams.
Outside of the pro ranks, some other prospects who could be on the move include Providence College forward Brandon Duhaime or London Knights defenseman Jacob Golden, but the Wild will likely be hesitant to move younger prospects if they don’t have to.
With every win, the Wild become less and less likely to entertain any offers for their own impending free agents. In what is already a buyer’s market, Minnesota is unlikely to get great value for their UFA’s and would be better served to hold on to them, whether that’s star veteran Eric Staal or valued depth like forward Eric Fehr, defenseman Nate Prosser, and goaltender Alex Stalock. One piece that could move is current third-string goaltender Andrew Hammond, if a contending team is willing to pay for depth in net.
1) Scoring Winger: To Fenton’s credit, he has addressed many of Minnesota’s needs already, adding Hunt to improve defensive depth, trading for Victor Rask to add another capable center, and even grabbing Pontus Aberg to help improve scoring. However, the slumping Rask and unproven Aberg alone are not going to turn around one the league’s least impressive offenses, especially with Nino Niederreiter now gone. Outside of Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund, no Wild forward has wowed offensively this season. The team needs to add another goal-scoring forward, preferably a winger, and they need to do it this year if they want to compete with other contenders in the postseason. If Fenton wants to make long-term hockey trades, he could look at adding someone like the Los Angeles Kings’ Tyler Toffoli or the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider in a deal for a player like Eriksson Ek. If he comes around to the idea of an affordable rental, the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello may be a better option, while the Ottawa Senators’ Ryan Dzingel or the Detroit Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist could also be fits. It will all depend on the asking price. If they can add two scoring wingers, even better.
2) Draft Picks: One thing is certain – Fenton’s assessment of the team’s pipeline is not wrong. The Wild lack almost any prospects who realistically project to be top NHL players and desperately need to reload the system with some talent. When it comes to moving pieces around, especially if they do opt to trade away impending free agents, Minnesota would be wise to continue to protect their own high draft picks while trying to add more valuable picks along the way.
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
Upcoming Draft Picks
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.