Updated: Feb 9
At this point in a severely underwhelming season, the Nashville Predators need to be established as sellers by the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24.
It's becoming increasingly clear that David Poile's plan to win a Stanley Cup with the current roster is not going to pan out as visioned. In fact, it's likely to fall flat on its face entirely. With a little over $7 million in cap space right now, the Preds are decently flexible when it comes to "rental" free agency this month, as well as free agency this summer.
The Preds' most tossed-around names are Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Craig Smith, and Mikael Granlund. Moving any of these guys by themselves won't land the Preds any significant names (i.e., Chris Kreider, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Brenden Dillon), but packaging two or three of them in a deal could really work in the Preds' favor.
In terms of what the Preds need right now, the focus should be on defense and at center.
Minnesota's Matt Dumba would be a wonderful defensive acquisition for the Preds. The 25-year old comes at a bit of a price ($6 million/year over the next three years), but given Poile's propensity to make deals with the Wild, a trade is very conceivable. It's not a common move to return a player to their sender, but shipping Granlund back to Minnesota along with a prospect or draft pick could land Dumba. Granlund was a 50+ point-scorer for the Wild in the three seasons before being traded to Nashville for Kevin Fiala, but he hasn't panned out in the same way for the Preds.
However, since the Preds fired Peter Laviolette and replaced him with John Hynes, Granlund has scored five goals in those 11 games. Under Laviolette this season, Granlund had just six goals and 14 points in 35 games. On top of that he served as a healthy scratch in six games this season with Lavi behind the bench. With Granlund seeming to thrive under Hynes' new system, it should at least give Poile pause before he trades him away.
Los Angeles' Alec Martinez is another attractive defensive asset the Preds could target. The 32-year old famously scored the sudden-death overtime goal to win the Stanley Cup for the Kings back in 2014. But the Kings of 2020 are a far cry from the Kings of 2012 and 2014, and right now, they need offense badly. L.A. currently has the third-fewest goals-for this season (133) but the third-most shots (1,830), which means their shots have been largely inaccurate and low-danger. Nick Bonino could play a significant role in fixing this weakness. The forward, whose cap hit is $4.1 million per year, is just seven goals away from setting his career season high in goals (22). With another 20 points, Bonino could break another career high. L.A.'s bottom two forward lines are real rough, so Bonino, who is +16 on the season, could anchor one of them and still find success.
Martinez missed the Kings' entire month of December with an injury, but still has only one goal all season, with just eight total points. Given his stats, Martinez's asking price is bound to be pretty low, so the Preds could request an L.A. draft pick to be added into a Martinez package in exchange for Bonino.
Perhaps the best trade the Preds could make would be for Ottawa's Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The ever-parched Senators will almost assuredly be swapping their number one center for a handful of offensive assets before the 24th. If the Preds are going to make a gamble for Pageau, sending Kyle Turris back to Ottawa is not out of the question entirely. Obtaining a player in a February trade typically implies that he'll spend the next couple months trying to win your team a Stanley Cup, but will ultimately sign elsewhere come July. Fortunately for Poile and the Preds, signing Pageau to a similar deal to the one he's on now (his $3.1 million/year contract ends after this season) would likely be cheaper than what they're currently paying Turris ($6 million/year), Bonino ($4.1 million/year), and Smith ($4.25 million/year).
Pageau's 33 points in 52 games are better than Ryan Johansen's season numbers (30 points in 53 games), Turris' (24 points in 46 games), and Bonino's (30 points in 53 games). It's no secret that both Johansen and Turris have been struggling mightily this season, and adding Pageau could inject some more offensive production.
Even once right-handed Ryan Ellis makes his much-anticipated return from injury, the Preds's problems at the left defenseman position will remain the same. Roman Josi is pulling so much of this team's weight, he cannot possibly be expected to add more ice time than 26 minutes he's skating on average per game. All the Preds have to back up Josi at left defense are Jarred Tinordi and Dan Hamhuis, who are hardly even adequate in their positions. Philadelphia's Shayne Gostisbehere would be able to alleviate some of that pressure. "The Ghost's" production has faltered pretty badly in his last few seasons with the Flyers. His 12 points and -3 rating in 41 games this season are on a career-low pace. However, Gostisbehere has also been bumped down due to the coinciding rises of two 23-year old defensemen in Philly: Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. Spurned by multiple healthy scratches, Gostisbehere actually asked to be traded in November.
The Flyers' need to fulfill his request and his own desperation for an increased role on a new team may drive down Gostisbehere's asking price in a trade. The Preds could probably get away with exchanging, say, Craig Smith for Gostisbehere and a late-round Philadelphia draft pick.
GMDP- in his infinite, yet questionable wisdom- could make all of these moves just as easily as he could make none of them at all. The only thing that's certain? The Preds will be making moves, because this team won't win a championship without them.