In the wake of a busy expansion draft, NHL teams are left with holes that for some, must be filled. One acquisition making headlines out of last week’s expansion event was the Golden Knight’s selection of winger James Neal from the Nashville Predators. Neal, 29, had 23 goals in 70 games with the Predators last season, and six goals on the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Neal has been a consistent 20+ goal-scorer his entire NHL career, so naturally, this is a pretty big hole in the Predators forward corps.
NHL columnist Nick Cotsonika recently penned an article stating the Predators are seeking a top-six forward, according to general manager David Poille. Here’s a blurb from Cotsonika’s report:
Poile said he would speak to Fisher about his future in the coming days. Fisher's decision is a key variable, impacting the roster and the Predators' salary-cap space at a time when they have to sign restricted free agents Pontus Aberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Frederick Gaudreau, Ryan Johansen and Austin Watson.
"There might be the ability to generate some form of a trade," Poile said. "There's some good players out there, names that have been mentioned, that could be available in a trade. I want to make sure we put our best foot forward if we think it can improve our hockey club."
Without much thought or consideration, the first thing that popped into my head was the Red Wings and Predators becoming trade partners in a transaction that could help both teams tremendously. The Wings have forwards like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist who may be of high value to a team built for contention like the Predators. On the flip-side, Poille has made it known that he is not breaking up his current group of rearguards, which should be no surprise. Nashville boasts one of the NHL’s best group of defenseman... You simply don’t break that up.
Surely the Predators could package up a combination of prospects and/or draft picks to make the deal lucrative, and honestly, the Red Wings should consider that, but they won’t. Accepting a package of picks/prospects for a top-six winger would raise the rebuilding flag, and Ken Holland has not indicated that the team is going into a rebuild phase. If anything, Holland is doing all he can to avoid a tear-down and rebuild — which, for most fans, is troublesome. The Wings have had their moment in the spotlight and would no doubt get their logo carved into the Mount Rushmore of sports if there was one. Now, it’s time to assume the elephant in the room.
It’s a pipe dream, but Holland could potentially move one of his young-veteran wingers like Tatar or Nyquist to Nashville for a prospect like defenseman Dante Fabbro and a 2nd round pick. If Nashville were reluctant to trade Fabbro, then Holland would ideally counter with asking for a 1st round pick. The transaction would fill needs at both ends of the deal — one team gets a reliable scoring winger, the other gets a valuable draft pick or prospect to hopefully use as a foundation piece in the future.
I digress, I think the Red Wings would listen to the idea of trading one of their scoring wingers in Tatar or Nyquist, but unless it’s returning an NHL-ready player, the odds of it happening are slim-and-none. Remember, Holland still believes that a rebuild would mean surrendering the next eight years of competing. In reality, a smart and calculated sequence of transactions can ensure a rebuild that lasts less than four or five years.
I’m not calling for a complete fire sale, what I want are smart moves that bolster the inevitable reality of rebuilding that will come (or has come) crashing down on the organization.