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Instant Analysis: The Hal Gill Trade

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Hal Gill gives the Preds a few elements they’ve been missing this season; he’s a big (6-foot-7 and over 240 pounds), physical, experienced defenseman with a ton of successful playoff experience. To be blunt, he’s the type of player Stanley Cup contenders are looking to add at the deadline; a move with an eye not just to get into the playoffs, but to make an extended run through the playoffs.

The price for Gill was significant, but the trade market was starting to set itself with the deals yesterday -- defenseman Nicklas Grossman (333 career NHL games, one career NHL post-season appearance, averaging 18:59 ice time this season) went for a 2012 second round pick and a 2013 third round pick -- and was likely only going to see the cost of players rise as time ticked down to the Deadline, so David Poile stepped up and paid the necessary price to improve the Preds.

Gill has played over 1000 regular season games and more than 100 playoff games, going to the Stanley Cup Finals in both 2008 and 2009 and winning a Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. The last three seasons he’s been able to step up his game during the playoffs, skating more ice time in the post-season than he averaged during the regular seasons.

Further, despite playing a physical, blue-collar game --- he’s consistently one of the league’s bigger hitters and top shot blockers --- he uses his veteran savvy to avoid getting in trouble. Gill has only been whistled for 13 minor penalties this season and was called for only 14 last season. During last year’s playoffs he was called for just one minor penalty – a cross-checking call – while dishing out 10 hits and blocking 16 shots in Montreal’s seven-game slug-fest against Boston. And during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup run in ’09, Gill took just three minor penalties in 24 post-season contests, while racking up 22 hits and 38 blocked shots.

The loss of Blake Geoffrion is not a move the Preds made easily, however, with the emergence of Craig Smith at center, the continued development of Nick Spaling in the third line center role, and the steady play of Mike Fisher and David Legwand in the middle of the top two lines, Geoffrion's short-term path to the NHL was blocked. And with Chris Mueller and Kyle Wilson in Milwaukee, the Preds have talented depth down the middle to call up in emergency situations, not to mention emerging prospects Jani Lajunen (a steady two-way center) and Micheal Latta (a gritty center with power-play potential) both learning through their first full seasons in the AHL.

David Poile also likes to keep his draft picks, but with this trade the Preds still hold either eight picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, their own picks in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds, as well as Toronto’s third round pick, Phoenix’s fourth round pick, and the NY Rangers’s sixth round pick. So even after this deal, the cupboard of prospects is still well stocked and the team is still poised to add several pieces in next summer's draft, while in the short-term the NHL roster became a lot more difficult to play against.

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