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One-on-One With: Preds GM David Poile

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
On the eve of the NHL's Trade Deadline, caught up with Predators General Manager David Poile to talk about how things are shaping up for tomorrow's deadline. In terms of trades announced, this has been a quiet lead-in to the Trade Deadline this year. Is the action behind the scenes slow or is the amount of conversation on-par with past years?
David Poile: There is a lot of talking as usual – we're probably not talking to as many teams as I have been in the past, but chalk that up to the parity we have in the league. There are some teams that just aren’t trading partners, plus there are an unusual amount of teams that are right at the cap and don’t have too much room to do too much. So I think it is that combination that has made this year a bit different. Usually on the day before the trade deadline there are quite a few trades made, or a lot of rumors. But there hasn’t been as many. I think tomorrow we will have a fair number of trades -- like we always do -- because there have been players that have been sat out intentionally by teams with the idea that they have trades in place or they are going to trade them. But it is not as busy as it has been in past years. You've talked throughout this season about a desire to add to the team's offense. Is that still something you're exploring?
DP: It’s still a goal, but it has to be a realistic price to pay. We are, in my mind, a team that is getting better. What I mean by that is I go back to two years ago when we had the third best team in the league and Craig Leopold sold the team and we got rid of a lot of our top players. Since then we’ve been building; last year I think our players did a great job by working hard and getting into the playoffs. This year is the same thing where we are working hard. But the goal is to be a competitive team for a lot years and to win rounds in the playoffs. So I really want to help the team and find the right player this year, but it can’t be at the expense of too many young pieces – whether it be draft picks or players – because they are going to be very valuable to us as we move forward with this franchise. You mention a lot of teams up toward the cap, does that put you in a better position having all those draft picks this year? Are those maybe a little more valuable to all those teams that can't add much salary?
DP: For sure, because there are certain teams that need to rid themselves of some payroll or what have you, but at the same time you don’t want to take a player for the sake of taking a player. You want to take a player that can realistically help you for this year and possibly somebody that can help you for future years. It is my job to improve the club at any time that I can. If you look this year, one of the things we were trying to improve is our goal scoring. Luckily we’ve turned that around the last few games by scoring much better. But so far this year, there’s only been two players that have been traded in my estimation that are goal scores and that is Jason Williams (12 goals in 62 games) from Atlanta to Columbus and Chris Kunitz (19 goals in 65 games) from Anaheim to Pittsburgh. The Kunitz deal was a big deal; Pittsburgh had to give up arguably their first or second best defenseman (Ryan Whitney) in the trade. So these goal scorers just really haven’t been available. With some injured players like Radek Bonk, Martin Erat, Scott Nichol, Alexander Sulzer, getting ready to return to the lineup, does that make it easier to make a move involving players currently on the NHL roster?
DP: Well, it also makes it easier not to move any parts because the one thing we haven’t had all year is much depth and if we get the three forwards back that you mentioned – Erat, Nichol and Bonk – and we get Sulzer into the rotation, we will have pretty good depth at all positions and I think we can’t say we’ve had that all year long. We’ve just gotten Sullivan back and we’ve had these various and different injuries. We’ve had a couple injuries to people like Erat and Bonk and some people like Jerred Smithson and Joel Ward are asked to play higher in the lineup. And they’ve played terrific in the last few games. So sometimes you get to give people an opportunity and you find out more about what they can do. Joel Ward is a total example of that because there is a guy we signed with the idea that he would be a depth player for us and play in Milwaukee and if need be, called up. And he has played here since Day One and he has been getting better and better all along this year. Now he is up to our second line.

So if we do nothing tomorrow I think we will be way better off in another week than we are today just for the fact if we get those guys (Bonk, Erat, Nichol, Sulzer) healthy. There may not be too many players traded tomorrow who would be more valuable to us than those guys. There are a lot of reports and rumors about a high number of players on the waiver wire. Is a waiver claim an option for the Predators?
DP: That is an option. Tomorrow is the last day for waivers. It is only one of about seven or eight players realistically that we could be interested in. Realistically that would be about it, but that is an option for us to consider. You made an almost forgotten move earlier in the year to add former first round pick Hugh Jessiman. He’s now second on Milwaukee with 15 goals. Is he playing his way back into NHL conversation?
DP: Yeah, I think he is. I think that was a good move for him (Jessman) to change organizations. We’ve been happy with his production down there and I think he is getting himself back in the mode of being a prospect. I’ll sit down with him at the end of this year to see if he wants to come back with us – because he is an unrestricted free agent – and go over what we think his strengths are and his weaknesses are and where he fits into the organization. He is a big man and he has some good hands and I’d like to work with him longer. With some of the moves you made in the off-season -- the draft, trading for Ryan Jones, bringing Patric Hornqvist, Teemu Laakso, Robert Dietrich over from Europe -- how much stronger is the organization now than maybe it was at this point last year?
DP: I’ve always had great faith in our scouts; they’ve always done a really good job. I think that has been primarily the way we have built our team. We’ve had a few trades and the odd free-agent signing but mostly it’s been through the draft and with the system. That’s where we want to go. We had a really good draft last year with a couple of number one picks and this year we have extra draft picks and I’m going to try to hang on to as many as I can because we’ve had really good fortune with our younger players. Our farm team is in good shape. We are in first place in Milwaukee and I think we legitimately have four our five players (in Milwaukee right now) that will play regularly for the Predators in the future.

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