Earlier this week, Preds General Manager & President of Hockey Operations David Poile revealed that the Preds are entertaining trade discussions from other NHL teams with regard to forward Alexander Radulov. NashvillePredators.com sat down with Poile to discuss the recent developments and how they impact the team’s direction heading into next season.
NashvillePredators.com: What is the process the Preds went through with Alexander Radulov and how did you reach the point where the decision was made to explore parting ways?
David Poile: We got to this point after numerous conversations with myself and Rad, Barry and Rad, Rad and his agent, myself and Rad’s agent. We tried to have the right fit. Our position is that we’d go forward on a shorter commitment to see if there was a fit. During the time Alex was here at the end of the season and in the playoffs it was good but it was not perfect; it wasn’t what we both had expected and both sides had some question marks about the fit. After all those discussions, we decided that it would probably be better to go in a different direction. He, through his agent, conveyed to us that he’s negotiating with the KHL, but that he’s also keeping his options open to staying in the NHL. Thus we have reached out to some teams in the NHL to see if there is any interest; our thought process in that is that Rad is an asset and if we got something for him in the form of draft picks or younger players, we’d be better off. If none of that happens and he goes back to the KHL, we still retain his NHL rights and never say never on another chance.
NP.com: How does this impact the look of the team for next season?
Poile: Going forward we don’t want to forget that we had an exciting season -- the second half was great – our team was a good solid team performing well and we made a lot of additions and I guess it could be argued that some worked out and some didn’t work out. I don’t regret anything we did. I thought it was very exciting for our team and our fans; I truly believe we had as good a chance as we’ve ever had to win in the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup. Having said that, Andrei Kostitsyn is not going to be back and now Rad is not going to be back, but I’m very comfortable with who we have and who we have coming up. In my mind arguably we’re coming back with our top two lines – Kostitsyn-Fisher-Erat was arguably our top line all year and Wilson-Legwand-Hornqvist was our second line for large parts of the year. And then we have lot of other players, including free agents like Paul Gaustad and Brandon Yip who we have approached about bringing back for next season. And a lot of younger players like Spaling, Bourque, Halischuk, Smith, they’re all under contract already, so I think from a forward standpoint it hard to think we won’t be at least as good as we were last year (when the Preds finished eighth in the NHL in goals scored).
NP.com: For the majority of the 2011-12 season the Preds were one of the youngest teams in the league, does that impact your decision with Radulov and/or the decision as to the return you are looking for in any potential trade for Radulov?
Poile: We opened with the youngest team in the league last year. I think that’s challenging and that’s risky. The good news is through good play --- and a lot of that had to do with our goaltender --- we built confidence and developed to a point where we’re way better off for it. But I’m not looking to get any younger. In fact, I’ll probably try to add some more veterans, be it through trades or in free agency. But because of last season’s experiences and successes, we now have guys who are entering their second and third full years who are no longer rookies and have some seasoning to allow them to make better contributions. I feel we’re in a good position to move forward, where as last year at training camp I feel everyone was maybe a little nervous because we had so many new players in new roles who hadn’t been there before.
NP.com: Just looking at the roster it appears like the team has a lot of forwards already in the fold for next season. Does that impact any of the potential moves you make this summer?
Poile: You always want to get better and stay open minded for free agency and trades, but I think we’re in a solid position. We have our veteran players in the prime of their careers and we have the young group --- like Colin Wilson, Spaling, Hornqvist, Halischuk, Smith, Bourque --- who have a lot of upside and should continue to just get better. I think we had a good group last year. Sometimes you have to give them a chance to let them grow together.
NP.com: The Preds have always followed the mantra of “The road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee” (in reference to the team’s AHL affiliate the Milwaukee Admirals). Are there any players from Milwaukee who can make the NHL jump this year?
Poile: We have good depth from Milwaukee, which allows me to be a little more judicious about additions from outside the organization. We have a couple forwards who I think are NHL ready in Kyle Wilson, who played some games for us last year and had NHL experience with Columbus the previous two seasons, and Chris Mueller, who was our leading scorer and arguably our best all-around player in Milwaukee. I think Mueller will really challenge for NHL time this year. We’ve signed a veteran European player in Daniel Bang to maybe make up for some of what we traded away during the season; who we think, given an opportunity in Training Camp certainly will be close and could play games for us next season. On the backend we’re bringing back Mattias Ekholm, who was the defenseman of the year in the Swedish Elite League and who we project to have a bright future for Nashville Predators someday. We feel confident that Jon Blum will force his way back into the NHL mix next year; heading into the American League playoffs he really started to play at the level we saw here in the Nashville two years ago, so we’re excited to see how he competes in Training Camp. We signed Joonas Jarvinen, a defenseman from Finland who is a little older, a bit of a late bloomer, but someone who played at the World Championships and played effectively; we think we might have something with Jarvinen. Jack Maclellan, a college forward we signed at the end of last year, is a player who is really hard working and can come in to training camp with a chance to impress. Mike Latta, Taylor Beck, Jani Lajunen were good for Milwaukee and are all guys we think we’ll see in the NHL at some point. They all have the potential to make a difference in Training Camp; the coaches have them slotted in for preseason games. So the depth and competition on both sides – forward and defense – sets us up really nice for Training Camp this year.