David Poile has made some difficult decisions over the years, but the trade he consummated on Saturday afternoon may have been one of the toughest yet.
Ahead of the NHL roster freeze preceding Wednesday's Expansion Draft, Nashville's general manager dealt defenseman Ryan Ellis to Philadelphia in exchange for forward Nolan Patrick and defenseman Philippe Myers. Poile then flipped Patrick to Vegas and acquired forward Cody Glass from the Golden Knights to complete the transaction that sent shockwaves around the hockey world.
The move was just the latest in what has become an eventful month for the Preds. On July 1, Nashville dealt forward Viktor Arvidsson to Los Angeles in exchange for a pair of draft picks, and last week, now-former goaltender - and franchise icon - Pekka Rinne announced his retirement. Now, Ellis becomes the third homegrown player to depart over the past few weeks, another signification of the organization's desire to make some changes this offseason.
Poile sat in his Bridgestone Arena office to address the media just hours after the trade was completed on Saturday, and before he expressed excitement for what's ahead, the GM began by calling it "another tough day."
"Ryan Ellis was a great player for the Predators for a lot of years," Poile said. "He was an integral part of all of those teams [that had great success], and for that, I will be forever thankful for everything that he's done for our franchise. His work ethic was second to none… His dedication to the game, how he conducted himself as a pro, second to none. He was a fabulous player for us. It's not easy making trades, but not dissimilar to the Viktor Arvidsson situation, I just felt that this offseason, it's time for a change."
The most recent adjustments have come in the form of Glass and Myers, two young players with loads of potential as they both join a new NHL franchise for the first time in their respective careers.
In Glass, the Preds add a 22-year-old centerman who was the sixth overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft and has the ability to become a two-way playmaker. Additionally, Poile is intrigued by Glass returning to full health after missing time due to a knee injury. Now, the Preds are looking forward to what the 6-foot-2, 185-pound forward may be able to add to their lineup.
The organization is equally high on Myers, and understandably so. A 6-foot-5, 209-pound defender, the 24-year-old spent his third season with the Flyers in 2020-21, totaling 11 points (1g-10a) in 44 games. Myers gives the Preds size on the backend and provides attributes Poile says have been missing from the Nashville blueline as of late.
"I like to emphasize in my mind that I don't see this as a rebuild, I see this as an effort to get younger and to add some elements to our team that maybe we haven't had in recent years," Poile said. "I want to get us back to a situation where we're competing at a higher level."
Of course, Poile had planned to have his club in that position for years to come after the Preds made a run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but as the GM has articulated, the team has been enduring a downward trend since capturing the Presidents' Trophy in 2018. Therefore, the time for some modifications has come.
Video: Preds GM Poile discusses acquisitions of Glass, Myers
"If we don't do anything, we're not going to get any better," Poile said. "The hard decisions that I'm making right now are that we need to change the cast. [When] I signed Ryan Ellis [to an eight-year contract], that was my vision; my vision was with a highly competitive team competing for the Stanley Cup, and hopefully winning the Stanley Cup, and that hasn't happened in the last three to four years. If I believed that that was going to happen with this present cast, I would not be making this trade."
As the roster continues to be made over, Poile now expects Glass and Myers will play important roles with the team this season, just as so many of Nashville's young prospects did last spring to push the club back into the playoffs.
"I was very happy with our team in the second half of last season, and I think it's fair of me to say that a lot of that came from our younger players," Poile said. "[Mathieu] Olivier or [Tanner] Jeannot or [Yakov] Trenin, those younger players were becoming big contributors and factors on our team. So, it's a necessity to change the team, and unfortunately for Ryan Ellis, he was part of that decision-making process."
Anytime a trade of this magnitude is completed, there is always an eye to the future as well, and this is no different. With Ellis and Arvidsson having been dealt, the Predators have alleviated approximately $10 million in salary cap space, room that will benefit them with the NHL expected to have a flat cap of $81.5 million for at least the next couple of seasons due to the effects from the pandemic.
The Preds also have a pair of Swedes - forward Filip Forsberg and defenseman Mattias Ekholm - who are entering the final season of their respective contracts and will be eligible to sign extensions later this summer. Those are conversations, Poile says, he would like to have, and those processes will be helped by the recent moves.
"It allows us to have more flexibility than most teams right now…and we have [two] guys that are entering their last year," Poile said. "When we get later in the summer, training camp or what have you…Ekky and Forsberg are two guys that we would certainly like to sit down with and talk about the future with them and see if we can both get together on that. The trade with Arvidsson, Pekka retiring and today with Ellis certainly put us in a position to better handle those situations."
In the meantime, the infusion of youth continues in Nashville, and two more participants have been added to support the cause.
"I'm pretty bullish about the way the second half of the season went with how our team played and how our younger players played and [with Juuse Saros] in goal," Poile said. "There's a lot of things that are really looking good on our team… I'm just really feeling that we're not that far off."