Kukla's Korner

To buy or not to buy? That is the question…

The NHL Trading Deadline is just over a week away, so here’s your Nashville Predators Question of the Week: Should David Poile starting buying, selling, or should he stand pat with his current roster?

I’ll admit to being somewhat conflicted on this one, but let’s take each option one at a time…

Buying: The need on this team is glaringly obvious, as the Preds are putting up an NHL-low 2.30 goals per game.  The problem there is that Top Six offensive talent is a pricey commodity at this time of year, even if you’re getting a player who is headed for unrestricted free agency.  Frankly, it makes no sense for David Poile to part with a long-term asset for 20 games or so and a stab at the playoffs. Remember what it cost to land Peter Forsberg? Two young players and two picks.  On the other hand, there is something to be said for maintaining a “win at all costs” mentality and an expectation of reaching the postseason.  Additionally, for a team that projects to break even financially, even a short playoff run would make for a nice windfall.

The problem with buying is that Poile has precious few assets to deal in exchange; depth blueliners and draft picks aren’t going to land a 40-goal scorer, and the prospects which have been called up to Nashville from Milwaukee probably aren’t lighting up GM’s eyes around the league. Instead, a more likely acquisition would be a player like last year’s pickup, Jan Hlavac; a role player with specific characteristics that Barry Trotz needs. Tomorrow I plan to run down a list of likely candidates on that front.

Selling: Savvy GM’s build their organizations by dealing from a position of strength, and Poile might be best off trying to get something now for what he’ll have come July 1 (nothing) in terms of some upcoming free agents like Greg Zanon, Radek Bonk, Ville Koistinen, and Greg de Vries. Bonk’s latest injury probably takes him off the trading block, and Koistinen likely hasn’t played enough to draw serious interest, but Zanon and de Vries could prove enticing to a playoff team in need of some PK help (such as Detroit or Dallas).

Standing Pat: Now that Steve Sullivan is scoring, the Preds could try one last maneuver to see if moving him to the Legwand line might get two lines generating offensive threats consistently. For several weeks now, the Nashville offense has pretty much been a one-line affair, with one set of scorers slumping while the others contributed, or vice versa.  Defensively, the team is playing pretty well and Pekka Rinne has look more impressive with each passing game.  In the event that the playoffs slip out of reach, the team could use the final weeks of the season to get another look at Patric Hornqvist and Mike Santorelli at the NHL level and focus on next fall.

As to what I think will happen, the only thing I’ll rule out is a significant Buy in a run for the playoffs; given the layout of the schedule, if it was going to happen it would have made sense for Poile to swing such a trade a week ago or more, as each passing game that doesn’t end in victory makes the playoffs that much more unlikely, even if the team does pull off an on-ice turnaround.

Instead, I’m guessing that we’ll see one of the defensemen dealt for extra draft picks. While the Preds have 12 picks already in the seven-round 2009 draft, most of those picks are 4th-round or later.  What this team desperately needs is game-changing talent up front, and since that talent is absurdly expensive in free agency, the realistic alternative is to work the draft.  Picture something like one of the current D plus a late-round pick, in exchange for a 2nd or 3rd. It’s certainly nothing to fire up the fan base in the short term, but it’s prudent team-building in the classic Poile style.  The Great Salary Purge of 2007 wrought serious damage to this organization, and it’s simply going to take time to get back to an elite level.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink


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