Over his 23 year career as general manager of the Nashville Predators, David Poile has seldom shied away from making a big splash when he feels it is needed. After a strange season with a slow start, a hot finish, and an early playoff exit, the Predators may need a bit of a spark entering next season. Tinkering with the depth pieces on the roster may be the simplest approach, but to get to the top, sometimes sacrifices must be made.
With the Seattle Kraken expansion draft looming and a wide-open entry draft immediately proceeding it, the ingredients are there for some spicy moves to be cooked up. A handful of players around the league have various rifts with their current franchises and are better bets to be moved. The odds are that if there is a big move to be made, it would be with one of those players.
Let’s get the big fish out of the way first. Jack Eichel‘s time in Buffalo seems to be over, as the team and the player are at odds over the best treatment options for his injury. The 24-year-old center hasn’t played since March 7th due to a herniated disk in his neck. Eichel is looking into experimental treatment, while the team hopes that rest and rehabilitation will be enough to get the star center back on the ice. If the injury wasn’t enough, then management’s failure to build a winning team around Eichel is enough to make him think about greener pastures.
It would take a large package to land Eichel, but whatever the cost would be worthwhile for the Predators to look into. Game-breaking talents like this are almost impossible to acquire outside of the draft, and the Predators have never had a player of Eichel’s talent. Adding a star like this to the core of the team would rejuvenate a set of players who need a push to get over their playoff struggles. The cap might be difficult to manage, but between the package going Buffalo’s way in return, and a roster player being lost to Seattle, this is the offseason to get creative with the roster construction.
Seth Jones was drafted by the Predators fourth overall in 2013 and was then traded in a one-for-one deal that brought in Ryan Johansen. Unfortunately for the Predators, proposing a reversal of that deal likely wouldn’t be looked upon favorably by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jones returning is an unlikely scenario, but it would certainly be a bold swing by Poile.
The now 26-year-old is one season away from hitting free agency and has already stated that he won’t be signing a contract with Columbus. That is the only reason he is available and why 31 other teams should be checking in to see what the price may be, and maybe even more importantly, whether he would sign an extension. Acquiring him as a rental is one thing, but getting a player of Jones’ caliber locked up long-term would be a coup.
The cost to acquire him won’t be cheap, but with Columbus backed into a corner, there may be a bit of a discount available. The Predators have a few prospects of interest, though a key piece in a deal for Jones may have to be youngster Dante Fabbro (more on him later). If the Predators are going to pay up to upgrade their blue line greatly, it only makes sense if it’s after the Seattle expansion and if Jones is signed to an extension.
Yes, Dante Fabbro is already a part of the Predators, but as an RFA, and the difference between protecting four forwards and seven forwards in the expansion draft, he could be made available in the right deal for a similar forward in age and talent. The emergence of Alexandre Carrier and the continued development of David Farrance and Jeremy Davies make for three NHL-ready defensemen on top of the five already signed for next season. The more you look at it, the more a Fabbro deal makes sense as something that Poile may be pushed towards due to the advantages it would create for the Seattle draft.
There are plenty of other teams who may be able to benefit from a swap of similar talent because most NHL teams never seem to have enough defensemen, especially those that play the right side. One option is Nolan Patrick, who recently switched agents and could be looking for a trade out of Philadelphia. Another example would be in a straight swap with the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass. Glass is also 22-years-old, a former 6th overall pick, and still has one season left on his entry-level deal. Groomed as a center, he just hasn’t been able to crack the top-six in Vegas and has some experience playing wing as well. He would be an excellent fit for the Nashville core as there would be room for him in the top-six, and his eventual upside is higher than almost any of their other forwards.
Though the moves outlined above are unlikely, there are certainly options if Poile and the Predators look to shake things up. More likely, though, the team loses a forward to Seattle, tinkers around the edges, and makes sure their restricted free agents are signed. Mikael Granlund may also be retained if Poile can’t find the right price for a bigger name acquisition. In the meantime, it’s fun to think about the Predators checking in on some of those bigger-name players.