This week features one of the bell-weather events of the NHL season … the annual Trade Deadline. There have been 25 trades completed on Deadline Day in each of the past three seasons. And as the hours tick by closer and closer to Deadline Day, the rumors become more rampant.
Adding Offensive Punch
GM David Poile has been open about his desires to add offensive punch to the lineup. If he makes a move at the deadline, forward is likely to the position the Preds will look to upgrade.
However, high scoring forwards are extremely difficult to acquire at the deadline … and come with a hefty price. Last year Pittsburgh had to surrender two young players plus 2007 first round pick Angelo Esposito, and a 2008 first round pick to Atlanta for Marian Hossa, a pending unrestricted free agent, and Pascal Dupuis. In 2007, St. Louis recovered a first round pick and two prospects for pending UFA Bill Guerin and also received Glen Metropolit and a first, second, and third round pick for pending UFA Keith Tkachuk. Also in 2007 Edmonton received prospects Ryan O’Marra (a 2005 first round pick) and Robert Nilsson (a 2003 first round pick), plus a 2007 first rounder for pending UFA Ryan Smith. The Predators went down that road in 2007, as well, when Poile acquired Peter Forsberg, but had to surrender Scottie Upshall (a 2002 first round pick), Ryan Parent (a 2005 first round pick) and 2007 first and third round picks.
The price tag for elite scorers is probably more than the Preds would like to part with at the trade deadline. But look for Nashville to still kick the tires for secondary scoring help. Last year Poile acquired Jan Hlavac for depth and the veteran clicked with David Legwand and Martin Erat to give the Preds another consistent scoring line to supplement Arnott and Dumont. A similar move – or series of moves – for well-targeted supplemental depth may be a more reasonable way for the Preds to parlay their bevy of draft picks into immediate help without having to mortgage the future.
The question still to be determined is whether the teams looking to sell at the deadline have any players who fit that mold.
--Jay Levin, NashvillePredators.com
Teams try to determine if they are “buyers” or “sellers” at the deadline … trying to add the final player or two to make a run at the Stanley Cup or sell off players to re-load for the future.
Fortunately, the Predators have put themselves in a position to capitalize on the market at both ends. The team’s strong play during the month of February has helped the club climb back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture. And with 12 draft picks in the upcoming 2009 NHL Entry Draft and a bevy of highly regarded prospects throughout the system, Nashville GM David Poile has plenty of attractive assets for teams looking to reload.
So, if the trade market becomes attractive for buyers, the Predators are as well positioned as any team to pounce. The Predators are unlikely to trade their first round pick, but they have two second rounders, two third rounders, and three fourth rounders in the 2009 Entry Draft, any of which alone or bundled together could form as enticing a package as any team could present. Or dip into their revamped reserve of prospects ... helped greatly by a tremendous 2008 Draft which produced elite prospects Colin Wilson
, Chet Pickard
, and Roman Josi
, not to mention a potential late round steal in goaltender Anders Lindback
, who has backstopped his team in the Swedish Elite League into the playoffs after wrestling the No. 1 goaltending gig for his team away from Florida Panthers second round pick Jacob Markstrom.
The system appears deepest on defense where Josi, 2007 first round pick Jonathon Blum
, and current Milwaukee Admirals d-men Cody Franson and Teemu Laakso
all appear well on the path to long NHL careers, not to mention Alexander Sulzer, a mid-season call-up from the AHL. In goal Pickard has established himself as an elite big game goalie in the WHL and 2007 second round pick Jeremy Smith
is returning to form from an early season funk, while Lindback is following a career course eerily similar to Pekka Rinne
. Pickard and Smith are both likely to turn pro after this season, while Lindback is considering making the move to North America next season as well. But the current group of goaltenders in Milwaukee may not be willing to slide aside so easily. Drew MacIntyre and Mark Dekanich have allowed the second-fewest goals in the AHL this season, with Dekanich ranking among the league leaders in Goals Against Average (2.09, third in AHL) and Save Percentage (.920, eighth in AHL).
|AHL's Youngest Stars |
There are only seven players among the AHL's top-25 scorers born after 1984, including Preds prospects Cal O'Reilly and Mike Santorelli.
Player (Date of Birth) - Points
Artem Anisimov (1988) - 62
Cal O'Reilly (1986) - 57
Chris Bourque (1986) - 55
Mark Mancari (1985) - 54
Mike Santorelli (1985) - 50
Tim Kennedy (1986) - 50
Jiri Tlusty (1988) - 50
But the system is far from barren up front. Wilson is the front runner for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, despite being in just his sophomore season at Boston University. Antti Pihlstrom
and Ryan Jones have made the graduation from AHL to NHL this season, while high-scoring Swedish forward Patric Hornqvist
has split time between the two levels during his first season in North America. Centers Cal O'Reilly and Mike Santorelli have blossomed into AHL All-Stars, despite being among the youngest stars in the league. Another 2007 second round pick, Nick Spaling
, is putting together an impressive rookie AHL campaign, while the college trio of Blake Geoffrion, Ben Ryan
, and Ryan Thang
have continued to show signs of NHL upside.
On the other end of the spectrum, Nashville has eight pending unrestricted free agents on the NHL roster. And each is on a cap-friendly contract – and this year cap room may be as important as skill and team needs in determining what moves contending teams are able to make on Deadline Day. Several of the team's pending free agents also bring significant playoff experience, which is a highly coveted skill set by contenders this time of the season.