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Turris trade latest bold move by Predators GM

Poile lands No. 2 center without touching Nashville's defensive strength

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

Did you doubt David Poile?

The general manager of the Nashville Predators left forward James Neal exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft, was unwilling to give up enough in a trade to keep him, and lost him to the Vegas Golden Knights on June 21.

Mike Fisher, his captain and No. 2 center, was contemplating retirement. Ryan Johansen, his No. 1 center, needed a new contract. So did other restricted free agents.

It looked like the Predators might step back after the proudest moment in franchise history, when they made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time last season, packed Broadway with thousands of fans and showed what kind of hockey town Nashville could be amid the honky-tonks.

But now it looks like the Predators are an even stronger Cup contender, not only this season but for seasons to come.
Poile pulled off a trade for Kyle Turris and signed him to a six-year, $36 million contract Sunday, after signing free agent Nick Bonino to a four-year, $16.4 million contract July 1 and Johansen to an eight-year, $64 million extension July 28.

 

[RELATED: Predators confident Turris strengthens center depth | Fantasy impact on Turris]

 

Fisher did indeed announce his retirement Aug. 3. But with Johansen, Turris and Bonino down the middle -- plus Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau -- the Predators are better at center and will have lots of options up front when healthy.

Bonino could slot at No. 3 center as he did with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won the Cup the past two seasons. He also could play on the wing on the top two lines. Same for Jarnkrok and Sissons.

"I'm just pumped unbelievable with the combinations," Poile said Monday.

Poile confirmed he had talked to Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic about center Matt Duchene, but the price was too high.

How high?

Well, consider that Duchene went to the Ottawa Senators as part of the three-way trade that brought Turris to the Predators. Colorado received a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, a third-rounder in the 2019 NHL Draft, forward Shane Bowers and goaltender Andrew Hammond from Ottawa, plus a second-rounder in 2018, defenseman Samuel Girard and forward Vladislav Kamenev from Nashville.

Tweet from @PredsNHL: . @kyleturris will rock #8 in #Smashville. #Preds

Poile added Turris without touching his greatest strength: defensemen Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban.

"That is the key," Poile said.

But not only did Poile keep his top four intact on defense, he kept his top eight intact. He still has Alexei Emelin, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber and Anthony Bitetto too.

He gave up Girard but kept other prospects on defense. He still has Alexandre Carrier to come up from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. He still has David Farrance, a third-round pick (No. 92) in the 2017 NHL Draft, and Dante Fabbro, a first-round pick (No. 17) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

He kept his first-round pick in 2018 and has space under the NHL salary cap with his core locked up. So he has currency to make another big move if necessary before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.

Don't rule it out. 

Poile hasn't been afraid to make big moves since 10 days into his first GM job, with the Washington Capitals in 1982-83, when he traded Rick Green and Ryan Walter to the Montreal Canadiens for Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis, Rod Langway and Craig Laughlin. 

When he told his owner, the phone went silent.

"I hope you know what you're doing," his owner said

He did. Langway became the Capitals captain, won the Norris Trophy in 1983 and '84 and ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Since becoming GM of Nashville's expansion team July 9, 1997, Poile has faced obstacles, many out of his control amid ownership issues. But he has gone for it when opportunities have presented themselves.

He traded for center Peter Forsberg in 2006-07, when the Predators finished third in the NHL standings and were trying to win a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. He traded for many key members of this team: Jarnkrok, Johansen, Subban, Filip Forsberg.

He hasn't let the salary cap stop him, or used it as an excuse to play it safe. He hasn't grown too attached to his players, or suffered paralysis by analysis. He hasn't won the Cup yet, but hasn't become tentative.

"You want to have relationships with the players, but you can't get too close," Poile said. "You've got to be able to see the full picture for your team and what you need."

The full picture here is that the Predators are 7-5-2, just out of a playoff spot and struggling offensively with Bonino and Ellis injured. But they struggled early last season and went to the Final. Bonino should be back from a lower-body injury relatively soon and Ellis should be back from knee surgery about midseason, and now they have Turris.

"I was excited about our team before we made this trade," Poile said. "I think we're a much better team today with Kyle Turris in our lineup. I'm excited to find out what we do."

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