With the trade deadline less than 48 hours away, many teams are either preparing to make a big acquisition for a playoff run, or trade away an unrestricted free agent to be to one of those aforementioned playoff teams. But some teams, such as the Nashville Predators, are caught in no man’s land.
Just two points behind the 8th place Columbus Blue Jackets with a game in hand, General Manager David Poile has a decision to make. His team is in desperate need of another top six forward, a problem that has gone largely unaddressed all year. Poile has looked to the waiver wire for cheap additions, but those players were waived for a reason and haven’t exactly panned out in Nashville.
Is now the time to pounce? Or does he cash in on several under-performing players and look to next year?
First consider that, despite being only two points out of a playoff spot, Nashville’s schedule is brutal. They still have four games remaining with Chicago — three this week alone — as well as another five against current playoff teams. And though no one has done much more than tread water lately, the Predators have fallen below the surface the most with only six wins in their last 18 games.
On top of this, Columbus has been said to be looking for scoring help themselves, and have three first round picks to play with. Nashville, on the other hand, has a bare cupboard. Most of their younger players are already breaking into the NHL and seeing quality time, but aren’t quite on the level of returning a top forward. It doesn’t appear that they would be capable of outbidding Columbus for the same type of player, further creating a gap between the two teams.
It may be time to usher in a new era for the Predators.
With an apparent shortage of sellers at this year’s deadline, Nashville has several players that can be attractive to playoff teams. Odd to say, given that Shea Weber is a two-point game away from being the team’s leading scorer, but when has deadline day been anything but?
In a drying defensive market, Scott Hannan could have surprising value. A playoff tested veteran is always in demand, and despite not playing particularly well this year, Hannan could be a valuable depth addition to someone’s blue line. And with the cap coming down next year, his rental status could be further alluring.
Other players that may be on the move include Sergei Kostitsyn, Brandon Yip, Hal Gill, and perhaps even longtime Predator David Legwand. Legwand is signed for another year at $4.5 million cap hit, and it’s getting hard to justify that salary given his performance since he was signed to an extension in 2008.
While assets to any playoff team in their own ways, none of these players are going to return anything significant for Nashville.
But it wouldn’t just be selling for the sake of selling. Beyond acquiring draft picks and prospects, Nashville has a lot of money tied up in under-performing players. Whether it’s now or in the off season, Poile is going to have to make a run at a top forward or two. As good as Weber is, when a defenseman is your leading scorer, that’s usually not a recipe for a successful season. Nashville must find that elusive centerpiece that they’ve been missing almost since their inception.
If Poile elects to stand pat as he has all year, frustration may set in. The Predators need progress, in one way or another. It may come this summer if it doesn’t come before the deadline, but the normally content fan-base has already suffered through one throwaway season. They’d prefer not to see another.