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Preds Primer: Trade Deadline 2011

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
As we enter the final weekend before the NHL’s Trade Deadline (2 pm CT on Monday, February 28), this is the time of year when trade talks heat up in hurry and trade speculation and rumors run rampant. previews the action around the Preds locker room, with an eye towards what areas the team might be discussing.

The Preds goaltending tandem of Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback/Mark Dekanich has been outstanding this year. As a team Nashville ranks third in the NHL with a 2.33 goals against average. Both Rinne and Lindback have save percentages better than .910, with Rinne ranking among the league leaders a .928. Dekanich blossomed into an AHL All-Star this season, placing among the AHL’s best in goals against average and save percentage. Age is also not a concern with Rinne just 28-years old, Dekanich 24, and Lindback just 22. Jeremy Smith (2008 second round pick) and Chet Pickard (2009 first round pick) are also promising young prospects battling for playing time in the system. In short, goaltending is a position of strength for the Preds so expect the Preds goaltending to look the same on Monday night as it does today; there is no need for the Preds to trade for another goaltender and no immediate pressure for the Preds to move a goaltender out of the system

Alexander Sulzer has been steady whenever he’s been given a chance to play; his development gives the Preds seven legitimate NHL proven defenders on the roster (edit: Sulzer was traded on Friday morning to Florida). Jonathon Blum was solid in his NHL debut on Tuesday night at Columbus, providing additional leverage in the system.

Most defensemen moved at the deadline are depth additions. The Preds have excellent NHL-ready depth in the AHL. Blum looks ready to play a more prominent role. Teemu Laakso has been a reliable option when called upon in the past, Aaron Johnson is a veteran of more than 200 NHL games (and looked comfortable in the Preds system during Training Camp and preseason games), and prospect Roman Josi is turning heads in the AHL and making a strong case for an NHL look in the near future. Any depth defenseman offered at the deadline would have to represent an upgrade over the options already in the system, and there likely aren’t too many of those out there on the market this year.

Francis Bouillon’s injury condition is a slight wild card. If Bouillon is not able to return to the lineup soon, the Preds could look to add some veteran grit and savvy to the back end – perhaps an over 30-year old d-man with the ability to handle 18-20 physical minutes a night to replace the presence Bouillon has provided.

With the addition of Mike Fisher two weeks ago and the recent returns to the lineup of Steve Sullivan (edit: Sullivan was placed on IR Friday morning) and Jordin Tootoo, the Preds have a pretty deep proven group of forwards. Erat/Kostitsyn and Sullivan/Hornqvist have formed reliable offensive pairings on the wings. Wilson, Ward, and Dumont have shown the ability to play top-six roles in the past.

Marcel Goc’s injury – combined with the earlier injuries to Matthew Lombardi and Cal O’Reilly – has depleted some of the depth at center, so the Preds might look at veteran options down the middle. But Smithson, Spaling, and Wilson all have the abilities to play either wing or center and Chris Mueller proved a legitimate NHL option when he was recalled in January. Winger Matt Halischuk also earned the trust of the coaching staff (and his teammates) with his play during a January recall. AHL forward Andreas Thuresson was reliable during last season’s playoff run and Blake Geoffrion earned praise from Coach Trotz during Training Camp (and Geoffrion’s production has been improving as the AHL season progresses).

Expect the Preds to explore options up front as the deadline approaches, but unless there is an option that represents a definitive upgrade at a modest price (in terms of prospects or draft picks required by the other team), the Preds don’t need to force any moves just to make a move. The performances by Smithson, Spaling, and Wilson over the remainder of the weekend may set the tone for how aggressively the Preds pursue another veteran two-way center to anchor the third or fourth line.

Heading in to the final weekend before the Trade Deadline, there is a limited supply of players available on this year's market.  The high number of teams still in the thick of the race -- in the Western Conference 13 teams head into this weekend either in a playoff seed or within seven points out of playoff contention (only the No. 14 and No. 15 seeds are more than seven points off the playoff cut line), while in the East the No. 9 - 11 seeds are each six points or closer to the playoff cut line -- combined with the higher than usual volume of trades the past two weeks leading in to the deadline, have diminished the supply at this year's deadline.

But while the combination of the current trade market and the Preds depth across the board in the organization would hint toward a quieter trade deadline in Nashville, GM David Poile and Assistant GM Paul Fenton have surprised us in the past (including a few moves completed just minutes before time expired at the deadline). Poile and Fenton are very thorough in their organizational analysis and player evaluations, so expect them to have a close feel for the market as well as a firm understanding of what Barry Trotz and his staff feel is necessary. Those needs -- and the state of several teams on the playoff bubble -- could change pending this weekend's results.

Check out for all the breaking Preds news, including comprehensive Deadline Day coverage on Monday.
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