The Nashville Predators' participation in today's Trade Deadline was, at the very best, anticlimactic.
In the throws of a severely under-performing season with the playoffs quickly approaching, the 2019-20 Preds were squarely in a selling position leading up to today's 2 p.m. transaction deadline. The basic expectation was that GM David Poile would target a second-pairing offensive defenseman to shave off the liability of having Jarred Tinordi, Yannick Weber, or Matt Irwin on the ice at the same time, possibly even going for an upward-trending winger. The only changes Poile made, however, were signing Rocco Grimaldi to a two-year deal and flipping Irwin and a 2022 sixth-round pick to Anaheim for Korbinian Holzer.
It's not an easy task to make Matt Irwin look like a decent defenseman- let alone a hockey player in general- but Poile somehow accomplished the impossible.
Holzer is close to being completely incompetent, with occasional flashes of loam-level mediocrity. He has been placed on waivers multiple times in his career (including this year), which means that Poile sacrificed not one, but two assets for a guy who could have been obtained for free for most of his career. This season in Anaheim, the Munich, Germany native has played in a career-high amount of games and collected, um... four points. Being entirely devoid of offensive production is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Holzer.
Advanced analytics on Holzer dive even deeper into a Preds fan's nightmare. This season alone, the 31-year old has managed to produce 590 Corsi Against- meaning Holzer has allowed almost 600 shots and missed shots to be put on net while he's on the ice. His 590 CA ranks 10th on the Ducks, and with only 405 Corsi For, Holzer is getting beat about 68 percent of the time he's playing defense.
The Ducks are already a bad team, which is likely the only reason Holzer has continued to be under their employ this season; when he is on the ice, his team was forced to face off in their own zone 56.6 percent of the time. Opposing goalies are logging an average .920 save percentage when Holzer is on the ice, which means the quality of offense Holzer helps create is rarely successful.
The Preds would have honestly been better off if Poile had made zero moves at all rather than trading for Holzer. The best comparison to trading for Holzer is when Poile traded for the offensively-destitute Cody McLeod last February- justifying the move by calling McLeod "a locker room presence." What Holzer lacks in skill, I guess we're being led to believe he makes up for in personality?
Nashville has typically displayed reverence to Poile's judgement of roster moves, but with this season's collapse and the utter lack of response to clear-cut problems with the Preds' performance, trust in the NHL's winningest GM in history is- and should be- at an all-time low.
On a positive note, Poile did manage to re-sign Rocco Grimaldi to a two-year, $4 million contract. Grimaldi has arguably been the Preds' best forward this season; with Viktor Arvidsson virtually nowhere to be found, Grimaldi has shouldered the title of the small but speedy, aggressive, grimy secret weapon the Preds have come to rely on game-in and game-out. In 58 games so far this year, the 27-year old is already up to 30 points- ranking seventh on the team and amassing more points than the likes of Arvidsson, Kyle Turris, and Mikael Granlund.
Grimaldi has a ton of offensive upside; when he's on the ice, the Preds are in possession of the puck 53.8 percent of the time. He is also contributing to a higher total of offensive point shares (the number of estimated points a player creates with his play) than Arvidsson, Turris, Granlund, and Ryan Johansen this year.
The moves that Poile should have, and could have made before today are fairly obvious. Missing out on Brenden Dillon (Washington) and Dylan DeMelo (Winnipeg) tipped it off, especially since Poile would have ostensibly only had to sacrifice one or two mid-round draft picks in exchange. Vladislav Namestnikov would have been a nice forward pickup, but Colorado nabbed him for merely a fourth-round pick in 2021.
Jean Gabriel Pageau would have required a handful of future Preds' draft picks to acquire, but Poile had the cap room to sign him and ultimately never pulled the trigger. Now Pageau will be playing for Barry Trotz's Islanders for the next six years.
It all began to cascade this morning, when Poile neglected to push for Erik Gustafsson (Calgary), Sami Vatanen (Carolina), and even Brady Skjei (Carolina). In a year where the February trade deadline could have likely saved the Preds' season, hardly a pulse was registered from the Preds' front office.
It was going to be pretty hard to make the Preds any worse off than they already were, but now that's the reality we were served.